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Posted On July 8, 2024

Why transformers blow during storms like Hurricane Beryl

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Mtlpresse >> News Info >> Why transformers blow during storms like Hurricane Beryl

HOUSTON – You probably heard a buzz this morning, followed by an explosion with an arcing blue light shooting across the sky.

LIVE BLOG: The worst of Beryl is over in Houston | ‘It’s cleanup time now’

We saw one while KPRC 2 Mario Diaz and photojournalist Roger Franco were working in Galveston. This was likely due to what many think are transformers exploding as Hurricane Beryl swept through Matagorda, up to Houston, and beyond.

The blue light is an arc that happened during KPRC 2 Investigates Mario Diaz live shot moments before Hurricane Beryl made landfall. (Copyright 2024 by KPRC Click2Houston – All rights reserved.)

CenterPoint Energy, ERCOT, and the State of Texas have crews working to restore the grid. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick mentioned that additional resources are on the way to assist.

Why do transformers blow or pop during storms like this?

Curious about why transformers blow during storms, we reached out to CenterPoint. Although their crews are busy assessing damage and working on restoration for more than two million customers, their media team promised to provide an explanation as soon as possible.

Understanding the urgency, KPRC 2 Investigates Jason Nguyen turned to Matt Kasinecz from First Energy in Ohio for insights. Kasinecz suspects that most of the things you heard and saw around transformers are from a fuse connecting the main powerline to the step-down transformer, that’s the cylinder you see connected to the utility pole.

“Fuses are also used to separate sections of the power line so damage affects a minimum number of customers possible,” said Kasinecz.

Diagram of a transformer connected to powerlines courtesy of First Energy. (Copyright 2024 by KPRC Click2Houston – All rights reserved.)

He explained, “To protect the transformer and line segments from initial damage, they have a cutout (fuse) that typically will ‘blow’ first to keep the transformer intact. So, when this cutout opens, it makes a loud noise, like a shotgun or a bomb, making folks think that the transformer blew up.”

With the high winds from Hurricane Beryl, ranging from 40 to 80+ miles per hour, the fuses blowing might not have mattered due to debris and the high winds potentially knocking transformers off utility poles.

When this happens, you might see electrical arcs or sparks from wires coming together. It’s the blue light we referred to at the top of the article.

If you spot a downed transformer or power, Kasinecz advises keeping your distance and calling CenterPoint to report the location as soon as you can. Once crews arrive, give them space to get everyone restored safely.

Copyright 2024 by KPRC Click2Houston – All rights reserved.

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