When power lines collide with strong winds, accumulating ice, or falling trees, something has to give. It’s frequently the humble wooden utility pole that snaps like a matchstick.
A line of intense windstorms known as a derecho cut a swath across Ontario last May. Hydro One reported 1,900 broken poles, a company high. More than 400 people were killed, and several kilometers of power lines were destroyed. Hydro-Québec replaced 1,125 poles, 400 transformers, and 40 kilometers of electric cable.
Nova Scotia Power reported in late September that Hurricane Fiona’s sustained winds damaged over 2,000 poles, prompting the largest storm response effort in the utility’s history.
The majority of Canadians have astonishingly dependable electricity service. However, the weather is the leading cause of major transmission outages, according to a study by the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), an international regulatory body that monitors the continent’s bulk power system.
During a major storm in Ottawa on May 21, 2022, power lines and utility poles fell onto cars on Merivale Road.
On September 25, 2022, a worker walks past downed power lines caused by post-tropical storm Fiona in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Tornadoes and hurricane-force winds destroy transmission lines. Storm surges inundate low-lying transmission lines. Extreme heat overloads transformers at substations and can ignite wildfires, transforming poles into torches. Even the toughest trees can be brought down by accumulating snow and ice, taking lines and poles with them.
Extreme weather is expected to become more frequent and intense in many areas as a result of climate change. The NERC stated in a summer report that the impact of extreme weather on the reliability of the continent’s bulk power system is already increasing.