Here's what likely caused all the power outages Monday night - East Idaho News

Here’s what likely caused all the power outages Monday night

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Photo courtesy Idaho Falls Power

IDAHO FALLS – A combination of environmental factors led to sparks flying, flames burning and power outages in Idaho Falls Monday night, according to officials.

Idaho Falls saw the first outage around 11 p.m. with a power pole catching fire and lines falling across Interstate 15. Idaho Falls Power spokesman Bud Cranor told crews believe this and subsequent outages resulted from environmental conditions rather than a mechanical failure. The outages also impacted Rocky Mountain Power customers in Bonneville and Jefferson Counties.

“Power outages are always going to happen,” Cranor said. “We just try to do our best to try to mitigate them as much as we can.”

Environmental factors can be anything from weather to the build-up of salt, dust or other contaminants on insulators. The insulators connect the power lines and poles, keeping the electricity flowing through the lines rather than the wooden power poles.

RELATED | I-15 back open, multiple outages and downed power lines reported in Idaho Falls

“If they get a little wet, the dust contamination conducts a spark over the surface of the insulator and the pole can actually catch fire,” Rocky Mountain Power spokesman David Eskelsen. “It tends to occur when there has been a dry period, particularly when it’s been freezing at night and then you get a little light rain.”

Eastern Idaho saw these conditions with rain, sleet and snow late Monday night.

Video captured by Idaho State Police dash cameras show bright sparks and flames as a power pole on I-15 split in half with lines falling across the interstate. The incident forced ISP to close the freeway for several hours before electrical crews made repairs.

Electrical-related issues continued through the night with two more power poles catching fire along Northgate Mile. Another power pole smoldered in someone’s backyard, according to Idaho Falls Fire Department spokeswoman Kerry Hammon.

The outage also trapped a man in an elevator. Hammon said crews rescued the man, who suffered a medical emergency.

Idaho Falls Power and Rocky Mountain Power crews say electricity was restored to most customers by 9 a.m.