Thousands of SaskPower customers have been experiencing power outages over the last couple of weeks, including those here in Moose Jaw.

Spokesperson Joel Cherry says the issue is being caused by heavy ice buildup on the power lines.

"Typically, that doesn't pose much of a challenge, however, when you have days or weeks of frost building up, it can cause some damage to our infrastructure and cause outages that we need to respond to. We're seeing some sporadic and mostly isolated outages and we've seen that for the last couple of days."

He notes there's been a couple of larger outages that occurred in rural areas, northwest of Regina and also around Saskatoon. There was also an outage that affected most of the town of Kindersley because of a transmission issue a few days ago. 

"We've seen some outages that have affected, in any given case, between 1,000 and 1,500 people," continued Cherry.

He explained how the ice build-up is impacting SaskPower's infrastructure.

"A big issue that can occur with the ice building up is, that it's building up on trees for example. You can tell by looking at a tree that is really heavily laden with frost that it's hanging lower than it normally would and that can cause trees to come into contact with our power lines and that can cause an outage. Frost on the lines themselves can cause an issue. When you get a significant amount of ice building up on a line, it becomes heavier and that can cause it to become detached from our infrastructure, it can break cross-arms and that sort of thing."

Although the wind hasn't been an issue as of late, it can also create problems.

"When ice is built up on a line and you have wind blowing over it, it can actually cause the line to gallop. Basically, it causes the line to bounce up and down in the wind and that can cause it to break loose from infrastructure and cause other damage as well."

Cherry added the most notable occurrence we've ever seen related to frost was in 2018 when we had a province-wide outage. 

"In that case, we had several of our transmission lines in the Estevan area come off and it caused our coal generating facilities to come offline and that caused a chain reaction that caused a wide-spread outage that took a good part of the day to fix. That was an extreme case, nothing has happened like that before and nothing since. We're not anticipating that level of disruption here but we will get out and respond to any outages that do occur as soon as we can and hopefully we get some sunshine soon to help melt that frost away."

If you come across a downed power line, Cherry advises staying at least 10 meters away as the line could still be energized. If the downed line is on a road or near a school, call 911.

To report an outage or power line issue, call 1-888-757-6937 or click here.