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It has been decades but what I remember is that, when I worked at an electric power plant where power lines emerging from the plant went over the parking lot, perhaps only when raining or high humidity, that if I moved my finger or umbrella tip near the car door handle, a very visible spark perhaps a centimeter long would extend between the handle and the finger and/or umbrella tip.

I am pretty sure this happened but someone told me this was impossible. If it really could have happened, what would you call the phenomenon I was observing?

I know that people who lived under power lines used to complain about health effects and if what I am remembering is real, it would seem to make such effects more plausible.

Note that these were the lines leading from the plant to an extremely large city -- I would guess there was a lot of juice there.

I don't recall that the spark was painful or there were any health effects (although who knows -- I did start to lose hair but there could have been other reasons) but it was concerning at the time.

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    $\begingroup$ Was the spark gone immediately, or was it sustained for longer time than a second? $\endgroup$ Jun 23 at 22:11
  • $\begingroup$ as mentioned, long ago but i think the spark kind of was sustained. but it may have stung and i pulled my finger away. i was once in chicago hotel when very cold so a lot a static and i think i saw big but short duration sparks from my finger to a doorknob. i experimentally tried to light a match with the spark but disappointing could not. $\endgroup$
    – releseabe
    Jun 23 at 23:09
  • $\begingroup$ I had a car like this when I was younger. Never found out for sure why it happened but it must have been an electrical problem with the car. Are you sure you experience was related to the power plant and not just some bad wiring in your car? $\endgroup$
    – Brick
    Jun 25 at 3:03
  • $\begingroup$ firstly, very new car or my old car where in years never observed. secondly, only under power lines. thirdly, i believe one of my coworkers had same thing on his car. $\endgroup$
    – releseabe
    Jun 25 at 3:59
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This doesn't sound likely to me.

Static electricity can build up enough to make a spark. But that happens on dry days, not rainy or humid days.

Power lines sometimes make buzzing noises, but they don't leak electricity enough to make sparks like that on the ground. If the lines are low voltage, they might be near the ground. High voltage lines are way up away from everything else.

If a power line did make contact with you and was high enough voltage to make a long sustained spark like that, it would have killed you. A high voltage power line could sustain plenty of current, and current kills at high voltage.

Static electricity has a lot of voltage, but supplies very low current for a brief time.

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  • $\begingroup$ these lines were easily 10 meters in the air. no line fell down, obviously, no direct contact. just a normal day returning home from work. $\endgroup$
    – releseabe
    Jun 24 at 4:34
  • $\begingroup$ is there a reason to believe static electricity would be associated with power lines? i don't think i have experienced static electricity standing on asphalt or concrete -- usually carpets indoors on a cold day so low moisture content in air. $\endgroup$
    – releseabe
    Jun 24 at 4:49

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