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What causes power outages?

Equipment failure, storms, wildlife, tree limbs and public damage cause power outages. Westar tracks outage causes and works to identify areas we can improve service reliability.

Equipment failure

Many components make up the electrical system. Electrical equipment, like any piece of equipment, can fail due to age, performance and other factors. Electrical equipment is often weakened by lightning strikes and temporary faults, such as those that happen when a tree limb comes in contact with a line. Over time, equipment becomes more susceptible and can not withstand the increased flow of electricity during high demands.


Squirrels, snakes and birds can come in contact with equipment such as transformers and fuses and cause equipment to momentarily fail or shut down completely. Many times, these critters are looking for a warm spot or food. Westar installs guards and protective fencing and uses various methods to help protect equipment.


Outages are caused when trees interfere with power lines. ReliabiliTree, Westar's tree trimming program, is running in all parts of our service territory. The goal of ReliabiliTree is to clear and prune trees on a four to five year cycle. During high winds and ice storms, tree limbs or entire trees are commonly what come in contact with poles and power lines. ReliabiliTree crews use professional directional pruning methods to trim trees. This is the accepted industry pruning standard approved by the Tree Care Industry Association.


Lightning, high winds, and ice are common weather-related power interruptions. Severe weather can cause outage situations that last for several days. Lightning can strike equipment or trees causing them to fall into electrical lines and equipment. To decrease the effects of a lightning strike, we install lightning arrestors at substations and on high voltage equipment. Arrestors may safely short lightning energy to the ground. Storms and high winds can cause lines to come into contact with tree limbs or other power lines. Straight line winds and tornadoes can knock down poles and cause extensive damage for several miles. Ice builds up on power lines, poles and tree limbs, causing them to fall or break under the weight. High winds can play a factor in how much weight a power line can sustain.

Public damage

Damage by vehicle accidents or construction equipment can cause broken utility poles, downed power lines and equipment damage. Outages can be extended and affect a large number of customers. It is important to keep electric safety in mind if you are involved in a vehicle crash around power lines.

Tracking outages

Outages caused by "tracking" can occur when dust accumulates on the insulators of utility poles and then combines with light moisture, usually caused by fog or drizzle. When there is a long dry spell, dust builds up on equipment. Light moisture combining with dust acts as a conductor, causing equipment to fail. It is possible that these outages result in a spark and pole or equipment catching fire. In such dry circumstances, it is beneficial to get a harder rain to wash dust away.

Momentary circuit interruptions

We know that blinks or short duration interruptions can be annoying. A momentary outage is defined as a brief electrical service interruption lasting no longer than five minutes. While these interruptions can be irritating, they also serve a valuable purpose; they demonstrate that the electrical system is working properly and that it has prevented an even longer power outage. When an object comes in contact with electric lines, it causes a fault. Breakers - similar to a circuit breaker in your home - sense the fault and interrupt power momentarily in an attempt to allow the lines to clear and check the system. This prevents further damage to equipment and prevents longer-duration outages requiring our personnel to respond to. Blinking lights should be reported to 800-544-4857.

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