'Hatuanui stima': Why power outages occur during rains

Electrical lineworkers and powerline technicians doing maintenance work in Eastlands. Kenyans have experienced power blackouts following heavy rains across the Country. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

As heavy rains continue to pound various parts of the country, the lid has been lifted on a phenomenon that has puzzled many Kenyans.

Why do power outages occur when it rains?

Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC), the country’s sole electricity distributor, explains that these unplanned power outages should not be confused with the periodic scheduled power cuts they occasionally effect for system maintenance.

“Heavy rains often come with strong winds,” explained Kenya Power on its X account. 

These strong winds, it adds, sway trees, causing branches to touch and occasionally fall on power lines. This then triggers a circuit breaker leading to a power outage.

A circuit breaker is an electrical safety device designed to protect an electrical circuit from damage caused by an overcurrent, (a current more than that which equipment can safely carry). Its basic function is to interrupt the current flow to protect equipment and prevent fire.

Unplanned power outages have become synonymous with rain in select parts of the country, leading a section of Kenyans to humorously suggest that Kenya Power ‘huanua stima’ (turns off the power) when it pours. 

Power outages are universally loathed by Kenyans, whether using the utility in their homes or businesses.

The duration and frequency of such occurrences depend on varying factors, and the reasons behind the power outages vary. 

Some of the common causes are purely human-instigated, others mechanical, and yet some outages are planned and usually publicized as a best practice to enable consumers to plan accordingly.

 Adverse weather conditions such as heavy rains seem to account for more of the power outages countrywide, especially in rural areas. 

Despite these challenges, Kenya Power assures its customers that precautionary measures are already in place to prevent unplanned outages. 

“If you spot any trees or tree branches near power lines, dial *977# or call 97771 for quick response,” the power firm advises.