Strange reason for power problems across valley during storm

SALT LAKE CITY - Thousands of people lost power when the winter storm moved in Sunday night into Monday, and Rocky Mountain Power said it's because several power poles caught fire.

At the peak of the outages, RMP said 7,000 to 8,000 people had no electricity.

While most people only suffered a couple hours without light or heat, some residents like the Christensen family in Sandy, waited 12 hours.

Andrew Christensen said their power flickered off around 6 a.m.

"I had to shower in the dark," he said. "Ever since then, just long socks, blankets, hoodies ."

They spent the day trying to keep warm with a fire and he said they lit candles for light.

RMP crews scrambled from site to site across the valley, trying to make the fixes as fast as they could.

"This storm was an interesting phenomenon that we get occasionally," explained David Eskelsen with RMP.

With the dry winter and bad air pollution, Eskelsen said the insulators on the ends of the poles that hold the power lines in place had been collecting dust and salt.

"In a place that gets lots of inversions and poor air quality, contamination collects on surfaces and it really causes a problem for us when we get a storm like this," Eskelsen said.

He explained that the snow falling on the contamination caused arcing and sparks, which led to the pole fires and subsequent outages.

Eskelsen said crashes were to blame for the other power problems they experienced on Monday.

This snowstorm should have cleared out all the contamination, and Eskelsen said they shouldn't see any more outages in future storms.