It’s been sometime since there has been some good action out on the electrical grid. You know a little excitement. Other than the typical blown fuses caused by suicidal birds or an occasional tree branch on the line. Things have been pretty chill up until a few weeks ago when a nice storm hit bringing rain, wind and a bit of lightning. Surprisingly only a couple small outages rolled in which ended up being quick fixes. Except for this one....
A Day With A Lineman #5
Blown Wide Open
After spending the previous day in a wrestling match with the front axle of my parts truck in 90F heat. I was hoping to have a “relaxing” day. As if that ever really happens with me. Well this day wasn’t any different. Time to ditch the mechanic hat and throw on the Lineman boots, a bank of transformers (2-3 transformers used to create 3 phase power) took a hit of lightning and made a big mess. Normally when hit by lightning, the transformer gets damaged bad enough that we need to change it. The porcelain bushings blown apart along with some internal damage. The best case scenario is blown fuses and or destroyed lightning arrestors. Those are “quick” fixes.
Winding our way to the northern side of the First Fruits Apple orchard, things opened up to a steep drop down to the Snake River. A quick stop to snap a photo before we head down to the 500 Horsepower pump that is off.
I wasn’t the first one there but this is the photo that I received when I got called to load up 3 - 167KVA transformers.
The insulating mineral oil that is inside the transformer, was all over the ground and a near by plastic holding tank on fire. Who knows what was inside that thing... the farm workers got the fire tamed and put out with shovels and hoses by the time I got there. Everything and I mean everything was covered in mineral oil.
I have seen a few transformer lids blown off in my day but a blow out in the bottom??? It looks like someone too a can opener to it to drain all the oil.
We couldn’t find exactly where the lighting hit. We looked all over the place and came up empty. If the lightning were to hit the lines above transformers then the lightning arrestors would have blown. Yet that wasn’t the case. The other two transformers were untouched but this this one is missing both the primary bushings and the kid is just a little bent.
Well we found one dangling below the transformers but not sure where the other one ended up? Maybe it hit the ground and made it way down the hill to the river...
As we began disconnecting all the secondary wiring we noticed a big problem. The insulated wire was filled with oil. When we would dangle the ends of the wire straight down a steady stream of oil would come pouring out. With the wind picking up do to another storm coming in, the oil was sprayed all over everything. The whole side of my truck had a nice oily finish.
Well all that 250 KCMIL Copper has to go, it’s ruined and some of it got really hot and started melting the insulation.
Hey, wanna see the inside of a transformer??
It’s nothing too fancy just a bunch of copper would around a couple iron cores and some paper, well minus a few gallons of insulating mineral oil. No moving parts what so ever.
As a fellow Lineman and I kept working at taking everything apart in preparation to change the transformers, the next round of storms was making it way in from the west. The winds were getting a little stronger but the rain hadn’t hit us yet. Then we started seeing lightning and heating thunder off to the west. As it made its was closer it was time for us to shut this job down. It’s not a very good idea to be working up in the air on the Powerlines when you have the sky lighting up like a Christmas tree with lightning. It’s kind of tough to tell but the dark sky is was making its way our direction really fast.
We kicked it into high gear and managed to get the transformers changed and some of the new secondary wire installed before the lightning was directly over head. Shortly after we got to the ground and started watching the lightning show, the wind started really howling and the rain started pouring down... “Cab Up!!”
It wasn’t but 15 minutes after we escaped the downpour and strong winds that a couple outages came in. Well looks like this job in going to have to wait. We have Women and children without power and they take priority over a 500 horsepower orchard pump. Looks like it is gonna be a long night. Especially when I say this 100+ year old barn blown down....
The storms hit in 15-20 minute bursts of strong winds and heavy rain. There were some point when my wipers couldn’t keep up and I was only going 30 MPH. I really wish I could have got some photos but when your driving at night in a storm... that is probably not the best idea.
We ended up having a tree fall and take down the wire in at a river crossing. At midnight trying to get wire back across the river isn’t going to be fun and not very safe. So we located some places to open this section of line and energize it from both sides so nobody was without power. Tree branch here, tree branch there, nothing too crazy thank God. The outages stopped coming in and we got everyone’s lights on around 2 am.
Crack a cold one, get a little shut eye and before I knew it, I was back where I left off. First I need to knock down this hefty breakfast burrito and enjoy the nice morning view.
Thanks for stopping by and checking out another episode of A Day With A Lineman. I hope you enjoyed it
We will keep
The lights on for ya
Kind of like Motel 6... remember the commercials?