Rain after long dry spell causing power outages

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SEATTLE - Now that rain is falling after an extended dry spell, utilities are telling customers there's a potential for power outages because of an unusual problem.

 

Power companies said 11 straight weeks of warm, dry weather left a coating of dust and airborne grime on power lines and insulators.

 

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Normally, an occasional rainstorm will wash dust away. But when it's been dry for an extended period and then it rains, the coating of dust gets wet and heavy, and short-circuits the lines.  Power poles can even catch fire.      They call it "tracking."

 

Power crews said they expect to be busy repairing outages once more rain moves in, and some tracking-caused outages have already occurred in Tacoma and on the border of Lake Forest Park and Mountlake Terrace.

 

City Light said if customers hear buzzing on lines near their homes, it could mean the insulators are burning and power might go out.

 

Utility companies said the problem is more common in South Texas and Arizona.