Skip to Sub Navigation

Main Menu

Ice on Power Lines

Extreme and fluctuating weather conditions, including high humidity, below-freezing temperatures, and ice storms can cause ice to form on power lines. We remove ice from power lines as quickly as possible to prevent equipment breakage and loss of power. Ice weight can put a lot of stress on power lines and damage equipment. In windy conditions, icy lines can whip violently and gallop, causing tie wires to break, wood poles to snap, and even steel towers to crumple.

Ice Rolling

A roller, attached to the end of a long pole or rope, is hung onto a conductor. In windy or wet weather, the power is turned off; in some weather conditions, it can be left on. The roller is pulled along the power line, cracking the ice off as it goes. This is a manual procedure often done in freezing rain and storm conditions. Rolling is done when melting is not an option. A 10-person crew can de-ice roughly 1.6 kilometres of line per hour.

Whether we melt or roll ice depends on:

  • current temperatures;
  • weather conditions;
  • the amount of ice build-up;
  • location;
  • our ability to isolate selected lines.
Manitoba Hydro crews putting ice rollers on the energized lines to avoid outages to our customers. The rollers are pulled across the wires to break the ice off. This stops the wind from bouncing the lines, which causes problems like the wires splashing together, or the weight breaking cross arms etc. The first and foremost consideration is safety. Enlarge image.
Manitoba Hydro crews putting ice rollers on the energized lines to avoid outages to our customers. The rollers are pulled across the wires to break the ice off. This stops the wind from bouncing the lines, which causes problems like the wires splashing together, or the weight breaking cross arms etc. The first and foremost consideration is safety.
Enlarge image.

Ice Melting

Ice melting may require us to shut off the power to certain customers, but it's a short-term outage that can help prevent significant equipment damage resulting in longer outages. Power is cut to a certain section of lines, and the customers serviced by those lines, for 1 to 3 hours. A controlled short-circuit is placed at one end of a sub-transmission line. The current flow creates a gradual temperature increase that heats up the line and melts the ice. Melting can only be done when the outside temperature is −7°C or higher. Using 2 crews of 3 to 4 people each (one crew working outside on the equipment and the other crew working in a control room), we can melt the ice off 30 to 50 kilometres of line in about 3 hours. We developed the ice melting process more than 30 years ago and we're recognized as leaders in the field.

Ice-covered power lines and high winds pulled and twisted this tower in 2012.
Ice-covered power lines and high winds pulled and twisted this tower in 2012.
Enlarge image.

Thumbnail and link to Galloping Power Lines video

Galloping Power Lines

Running time (1:05)

High winds and freezing rain can cause transmission lines to gallop.

Play video: Galloping Power Lines.


Be prepared for a power outage.