Months ago, I began seeing strange flashing lights when I was feeding the animals in the morning. They seemed to be coming from a copse of trees about 500 metres down the road. The red and amber lights flashed sometimes with a pattern, and sometimes just once, and they weren’t always there.
For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what would be up in those trees flashing away (the sci-fi writer in me had all sorts of fun ideas, though!).
I’ve seen them off and on for the better part of a year, but it wasn’t until a few days ago, while walking the road at night, that I discovered that the lights aren’t coming from the trees at all, but from strobe lights mounted on the powerlines between our house and that copse of trees.
Of course, that didn’t solve the mystery of what the heck those lights were, but it did give me something to google. I’m not the first one to have wondered about those things.
It only took a moment to discover that they are fault indicators, and the pattern and colour of flashes indicates the type and magnitude of the fault.
Thinking back on it now, I realise that the first time I noticed them (when they were flashing constantly for a long time), the power was out.
What is surprising, now that I know what I’m seeing, is how frequently they flash. Though perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised, given how frequently our power goes out. But even when the power is on, the fault indicators flash remarkably often.
Apparently, they clip right to the line and monitor the electrical load. Some of them can even wirelessly relay information back to the lines company. They make perfect sense for those linemen out on a windy, rainy night trying to pinpoint a fault.
But, of course, now that I know they’re telling me something, I wish I knew how to ‘read’ them.