If you’re always wondering, “why does rain make the power go out?”, there’s probably a problem with the power lines.
The rain can disrupt the flow of electricity to people’s homes through accidents or damage. You may find yourself in the dark for a long time.
Depending on the damage to your power line, you could be without electricity for hours or days.
Generally, power outages from the rain aren’t things you can fix by yourself. City workers will have to come and take a look at the power lines.
If you live in an area that often floods or has lots of intense storms, you may find yourself routinely without power.
But why does this happen?
Rain or floods from heavy rainfall can damage insulation elements. Once damaged, these elements can disrupt their power systems, leading to power outages.
Essentially, a rainstorm will affect the power lines that bring electricity into your home.
Rainstorms can lead to:
- Blown fuses
- Power surges
- Connectivity issues
- Disrupted voltage regulation
When everything in a power system is working properly, your house receives a proper amount of electricity.
If this system becomes disrupted, the lights and power will go out in your house for some time.
If your house has connections to a backup generator or grid, this break in your power might only occur for a few minutes.
However, if your house does not have backup power, you may be in the dark for hours or days.
To limit outages, most power lines have protective casings on their more vulnerable components.
These components are the insulating elements, which help regulate voltage through the entire length of a power line.
They are the most vulnerable part of a line, as they protect the join of two different lines and help encourage electric power from one system to another.
They may also regulate power from a supply source to individual lines.
Casings will protect the electronics from water damage, wind damage, and other issues.
However, sometimes protective casing will fail and allow rainwater into the insulating systems.
Two main insulating elements can malfunction through contact with water:
Switches, or transmission line switches, can help manage the power flow through the line.
Bushings help electrical conductors (like metals) pass through a conducting barrier without risking electrical contact.
Though both of these components have casings or waterproof seals, sometimes an excess of rain can penetrate through.
When water comes into contact with either switches or bushings, it can cause blown fuses or shorts in the power.
Casings may also become damaged by the intensity of the rainstorm.
Note: Older seals are especially vulnerable as they may not have the strength to withstand a sudden fierce storm.
Where Are Power Lines?
Power lines travel through cities and rural areas to bring electricity from supply plants to residential and work areas.
They will either be above ground or underground.
Those that are above ground are very vulnerable to the elements, especially in fierce storms.
Those below ground are safer from storms but are susceptible to floods and underground water drainage.
Rain can affect both overground and underground power systems.
Wind and Lightning Outages
Indirect power outages can occur when rainstorms are particularly violent.
High winds and lightning can cause tree branches to disrupt power systems.
They will break the branches or blow them onto power lines. This contact causes blackouts because power lines will cut out if something touches them.
Lightning can also strike power poles and fry their systems. Wind can also knock poles or towers over in a fierce enough storm.
Downed poles can break the connection of the power lines and short out the supply.
All these things can cause power outages from the storm, though not necessarily because of the rain itself.
Direct Water Damage
Direct power outages from the rain happen when insulation systems or elements of insulation become damaged.
This can occur through a heavy downpour or flooding.
Heavy downpours pose more risk to overground power lines because the lines do not have protection from the elements.
This exposure leads the rain to fall directly onto the insulation elements.
Heavy rains can infiltrate cracks in sealant. The pressure of the raindrops can sometimes force gaps open wider, allowing more water to seep through.
When water gets inside the protective casing of insulation systems, it can short out the power. After all, water and electricity don’t mix.
When water causes malfunctions and power surges in these components, it can prevent the flow of power from the source to residential areas.
These malfunctions or surges might be temporary, especially if the rain lets up after a few minutes.
In more drastic storms, the rainwater may damage the insulation elements permanently.
The force of the rain could be enough to break certain components. An extreme amount of rain may also fill up inside of a casing and flood the interior of the insulation system.
Heavy downpours may also be responsible for flooding, which will directly impact any underground power lines.
If you don’t live in a flood plain, it’s unlikely that a heavy downpour will damage underground power.
When floods occur, water can seep into the insulating elements of an underground power line.
If water gets into a switch, it can blow a fuse and cause the entire line to fail.
Flooding can also submerge entire power lines in the water, causing malfunctions throughout the line.
Severe floods can break components off and wash them away. Sometimes they can also lead to the severing of the power line itself.
A severed line will leave a residential area isolated from a power supply until repairs take place.
Rain can cause problems with power lines and can cause problems after a storm, too.
It may take time to erect a downed power pole and replace the damaged components. Workers might also need to clear away debris like fallen trees and branches.
Fallen power lines can also become faulty if the electronic components sit in puddles for extended periods.
Leftover rainwater can damage vulnerable electronics beyond repair.
This intense damage could mean entire sections of the power line might need replacing after a storm.
Note: For overground systems, rain can either directly or indirectly cause power outages.
Underground Power Line Issues
While it’s easy to find problems with overground power lines, the inaccessibility to underground lines makes it hard to discover why they malfunction.
If there was underground flooding during a rainstorm, it might take workers several days to find the exact point of a malfunction and fix it.
Workers may need to dig up whole sections of underground lines to replace them.
This affair is not only time-consuming but costly as well. Fortunately, cities will rely on backup power supplies or generators to provide power during repairs.
So, even in the most serious of storms, a power outage should not last longer than a week.
Note: For underground systems, rain is a more direct cause of power outages.
So, why does rain make the power go out? Heavy rainfall can damage insulation systems and elements in power lines.
Switches or bushings can malfunction when subjected to water. If a malfunction occurs, the entire power line will go down.
Though these issues won’t occur every time it rains, storms will make it more likely. High winds, lightning, and flooding can also knock out the power.
While it is more likely for wind and lightning to be an issue for overground power lines, flooding usually affects underground power lines.
If the power goes out when it rains, you’ll have to wait for someone to repair the line before it will come back on.