"Transformers exploding"

Dan Robinson

I hope I'm not being too nitpicky here. But has anyone noticed how ubiquitous the term 'transformer explosion' is, in the sense that it is applied to any power flash-type incident, regardless of whether or not there was actually a transformer involved? It seems that most power flash incidents are a result of either two energized lines touching, or a lightning-caused flashover across an insulator. There is rarely a transformer involved or even anywhere nearby.

I know from a public knowledge standpoint, the term 'transformer explosion' is understood to mean some type of weather-caused electrical malfunction that causes a bright arc. But maybe I'm being too technical in bringing up the fact that an actual transformer explosion is rarely, if ever, the source of a wind-related electrical arc.
 
Jun 22, 2005
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I agree with you here. People do use it way to often, and way to broad ranged for many situations. Sometimes, there will be a flash in a storm, and people will say, "Don't worry, it probably was just a transformer explosion". I know this isn't common, and as you said ia actually quite rare indeed, but the word has become over-used and Clichéd.
 

Jay McCoy

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Dec 6, 2003
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I have noticed serveral times that when people are talking about tornadoes and power lines they will sometimes say transformer explosion when it was actually just power lines going down.

Now during Hurricane Rita we were having power flashes from lines going down every minute or so for a while but we also had quite a few transformers explode. It scared the hell out of me when the one right by the hopsital garage exploded. Sounded like a shotgun. I know the sound because the one behind my house exploded once when I was sitting on the patio as a teenager. Thought I was dead!! The best guess I have as to why so many transformers were exploding during Rita was the poles they were on were slamming to the ground.

But I agree there is a big difference between power flashes and transformer explosions.
 
Jun 22, 2005
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Yep, thats where I mostly hear it, is when there is a flash during a tornado. Just back on the Tuscaloosa Tower Tornado Video, there was a flash of light in the tornado, and someone said, "What was that?", and a guy responded, "Transformer exploding".
 
Mar 21, 2005
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The easiest way to tell them apart is the color the "explosion" makes. Transformers make a green arc in the horizion. Arcing powerlines make a blue flash. Jay, you probably saw both of them down it Rita, right?...I did.
 

Joey Ketcham

To be honest, I hardly ever hear anyone talk about transformer explosions - on the news or anywhere. They're not that rare, my dad works for the local Electric Co. and they have transformers explosions at least a couple times a year for various reasons.

Now when we say "explosions" we have to keep in mind that we're not talking about the transformer blowing up into millions of pieces disintergrating into nothing, it's just that the insides of it basically gets burnt up as a result of god knows whatever.

We actually had one last year that did this right down the street from my house.
 
Mar 19, 2005
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This is probably a useless and frivolous anecdote, but I wanted to share it right quick. Back in May 1999 (when I was in third grade) me and some of my friends were playing on the playground of the elementary school we went to during recess and suddenly a sound like a shotgun blast rang out. This being less than a month after the Columbine shootings, and with the Fort Morgan High School just down the street, everyone promptly freaked out. I, however, happened to look up at a transformer mounted on a pole at the corner of the playground and saw a flame licking from the top of the blackened transformer, and the charred remnants of a squirrel dangling from the edge. They got it sorted out eventually, though the power was off in the school and a two block radius for the last two and a half hours of the school day. It was friggin' sweet! 8)
Anway, I agree with y'all on the exploding transformers/power flashes
issue ; most "exploding transformers" are, like everyone said, power flashes.
 

Jay McCoy

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Dec 6, 2003
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Originally posted by Justin Walker
The easiest way to tell them apart is the color the \"explosion\" makes. Transformers make a green arc in the horizion. Arcing powerlines make a blue flash. Jay, you probably saw both of them down it Rita, right?...I did.
Ya we saw a ton of power flashes and quite a few transformers let go plus we heard a few. Like I said power lines arc and pop but transformers sound like shotguns. We also saw 2 substations go down east of us. Lit up the sky for like 10 seconds followed by the loud buzzing/arcing once the sound wave got to us.
 

MClarkson

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Sep 2, 2004
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Why do transformers explode exactly?

The best one I saw was durring Frances... we were near one of those medium capacity lines with the metal poles... and some peice of a tree must have connected 2 of them because orangish blue sparks and smoke lit up the sky for quite a while. It really lit up the sky like it was daylight and it made a really loud buzzing sound...

unfortunatly my camera was off cause it was my first chase... never again will it be off durring the power flash period as the hurricane force winds start to move in.
 
Feb 12, 2005
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Originally posted by MClarkson
Why do transformers explode exactly?

The best one I saw was durring Frances... we were near one of those medium capacity lines with the metal poles... and some peice of a tree must have connected 2 of them because orangish blue sparks and smoke lit up the sky for quite a while. It really lit up the sky like it was daylight and it made a really loud buzzing sound...

unfortunatly my camera was off cause it was my first chase... never again will it be off durring the power flash period as the hurricane force winds start to move in.
My guess is the explosions are caused by excessive weight being put on the lines (heavy objects, high wind gusts, etc) or something striking the transformer directly (flying storm debris, collapsing trees, etc) . I had one explode next to my house during a freak derecho event back in 1998. It was pretty cool to watch. I'm just glad it didn't fall on the house!
 
We had a transformer go out a couple days ago. Power was out for 18 hours... I assume the wind knocked a tree onto the powerlines very close to the transformer, or lightning struck it... Don't know if it "exploded" or not.

I didn't see it, or hear it for that matter... But the power company replaced all 3 transformers on the one pole, so I can only assumed that they were damaged.