Trees can be a power line’s worst enemy. Strong winds, storms, and heavy ice can topple trees or shatter branches that pull down power lines and cause outages. Sometimes, even if heavily damaged, lines remain energized with the potential to electrify trees and nearby objects.
Arcing and flashovers between power lines and trees are also dangerous. In winter, extra weight from snow and ice can bend or break tree branches, bringing them close to power lines. During warm weather or when power lines are carrying heavy electrical loads, they can heat up and sag as much as 15 feet or 20 feet, dropping them toward nearby vegetation. Electric current caused by arcing or flashovers between power lines and trees in either situation can easily injure or even kill an individual nearby.
Follow these safety tips and be sure to pay attention to power lines:
- Make sure to always look for nearby power lines before you cut down any tree or trim branches.
- Treat all power lines as energized. Never climb or attempt to handle a tree that has a limb caught in a power line. You may not see any visible evidence that the tree is “electrified” or dangerous.
- Make sure to maintain required clearances between equipment and power lines.
- If a fire starts from a fallen power line, notify the fire department and your local electric co-op. Stay away from the site of the electrical hazard. Make sure others stay clear of the line and treat it as energized.
- Do not use water on or near a fallen power line.
Along with taking necessary steps to respond to an electrical emergency, you can help stop potential power line problems before they start. Horry Electric Cooperative urges members to practice these safety measures:
- If you notice anything such as trees or branches that might interfere with power lines or pose a serious threat, notify us immediately.
- If you are planning to plant trees on your property, make sure not to plant them directly under or within at least 25 feet of power lines for short trees, and at least 40 feet away for medium-sized trees.
- Shrubs, hedges, and other plants should be kept clear of electric towers and poles.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy