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Galloping conductors cause trouble in Southern Alberta

Dec 16, 2014, 13:59 PM

They ride into town now and then, but only every couple of years do they come to cause a ruckus.

On Monday, Dec. 15, a phenomenon known as “galloping conductors” began in southeastern Alberta, and weather conditions persisted into the following day causing pockets of outages between Bassano and Coutts. With a motion like a skipping rope or the reins on a chuck wagon, the wires ripple and swing, slap into each other and forcibly yank at hardware on the poles.

How do galloping conductors occur?

Under normal conditions, conductors on three-phase poles move in sync with each other in the wind. However, when conditions are just cold and damp enough to cause ice build-up on the conductors, these wires start to take different shape from one another and move differently in the wind. Even a slight breeze can start vibrations on the lines that build off their own momentum into a violent whip-like motion.

While galloping conductors are more common in the windy, open prairie areas of Southern Alberta, they can occur anywhere in Alberta and can even start without any ice build-up. Fortunately, conductors galloping to the extent of causing major damage to the electricity system are rare.

See a video of galloping lines in Alberta

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The safety of our employees and the public is FortisAlberta’s top priority. If you see a downed power line, stay at least 10 meters away and immediately call 310-WIRE (9473).
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You can find outage information on our outage map at or by calling 310-WIRE (9473). You can also follow us on Twitter at @FortisAlberta.

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