This Is What Happens When Two Power Lines Touch

Mar 29, 2016

Power lines are like A/C or the subway - we only notice them when they're not working. They provide us the vital utility of electricity in our homes, businesses, and schools, yet we rarely think twice about them unless we go to switch on the lights or TV only to be met with nothing in response. Power lines are everywhere. In fact, I can look out my window right now and see a power line - probably the very same power line that's making it possible for me to type these words on my laptop. For something that surrounds us almost everywhere we go, have you ever taken a moment to ask yourself how safe they are?

Power lines are full of electrical power. They can range from anywhere between 1,000 volts in residential areas to 800 kilovolts for high power, long distance transmission. Everyone knows that we aren't supposed to touch power lines, but what happens when two power lines touch each other? We've already seen what happens when a stray balloon runs into a power line, and, believe it or not, this is even cooler.

What you're seeing here is something called "arcing." When two power lines get too close together, they begin conducting each other's electrical current and a corona discharge can be seen forming between them. This appears to us as a bluish light and is a result of the ionization of the surrounding air. Keep your ears open for the humming and frying sounds that often accompany these events. For those of you wondering why the power lines are this close in the first place, one Reddit user pointed out that they are lacking rigid space dampers, which ensure the lines are kept far enough apart.

While we certainly want everything to stay safe, power line arcing is a fascinating sight to see.

H/T: SaeLow

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