What’s that racket?: Salisbury neighborhood grapples with unexplained power line noise

Published 12:06 am Tuesday, March 14, 2023

SALISBURY — Neighbors in a north-end Salisbury community grew accustomed to their serene streets, but an unidentified sound seemingly emitting from their power lines has drastically impacted their quality of life.

Neighbors on Scales Street started hearing the sound as early as late last year.

“It’s been going on for about two or three months,” said Darren Mitchell, one of the street’s residents.

Mitchell described the sound as resembling the noise that a woodpecker makes.

“It sounded like a woodpecker, but it would go on for hours,” Mitchell said. “A woodpecker would take his time, but this thing goes on for hours sometimes.”

Without much apparent rhyme or reason to it, the only thing harder to explain than the sound was the irregularity of its occurrence.

“It would slow down every now and then, and then it would just quit,” Mitchell said. “Most of the time, it seemed like, in the afternoons, it would crank up real bad and keep going for a while. Sometimes it would be all through the night.”

Mitchell is a retired truck driver who prizes a good night’s sleep as much as anyone.

“You can’t rest with that going on,” Mitchell said.

He spends a lot of time at home, where he lives with his family.

“It’s been a burden on all of us,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell indicated that other neighbors started coming to him when the noise became unbearable. They went out looking for an explanation and could never find anything.

Chelsea Jackson lives next door to Mitchell with her fiance and two-year-old son. She works from home as an advanced medical support assistant for Veterans Affairs and is around the house most of the day. Recently, she got noise-canceling headphones to block out the sound.

“At first, I thought it was my neighbor’s telephone ringing,” Jackson said. “I have never heard them with a house phone before, but that one was pretty loud, and it kept going and kept going.”

Once she ruled out that culprit, she turned to other possibilities.

“We thought it might be a woodpecker,” Jackson said. “We could hear it in the morning. I would go to the gym around 5 in the morning and hear it on my way home around 6 or 6:30.”

Jackson figured that it was too early for any construction to be going on.

“It goes all day,” Jackson said. “Sometimes (it goes) all night. I have heard it out here past eight and nine o’clock (p.m.).”

The noise’s frequency made the matter worse.

“Most of the time, you would hear it every two to three minutes,” Jackson said. “I come outside on my lunch break to get fresh air and try to enjoy my outdoor surroundings, so when you hear that noise, it’s pretty hard.”

For the formal healthcare worker, the noise is a painful reminder of a stressful profession.

“It reminds me of working in a healthcare facility, and you hear the call bells going off constantly,” Jackson said. “(It didn’t sound like a bell), but that recurring dinging, whatever that noise was, was just recurring, and it was really annoying.”

Norma Staley lives across the street from Jackson and Mitchell. Without taking melatonin and other non-habit-forming sleep aids, Staley has no chance of making it through the night undisturbed.

“If I don’t take any sleep aids to go to sleep or try to sleep, I am awake all night,” Staley said. “Even if I take something, I still can’t sleep because of how loud the noise is.”

Every afternoon, Staley plays bridge online with her friends. It’s a tradition that dates back years but only went online during the COVID pandemic. According to Staley, even her friends have reported hearing the noise over their communication line when they play.

Staley thought it might have started to get better last week, but the sound just took a break and ultimately returned.

“It’s back during the night and before 8 in the morning,” Staley said. “It is out there. It woke me up at least three times (Sunday night).”

Although the cause remains unknown, the neighborhood reports had at least one thing in common: the source. Where do they think it is coming from? The power lines.

On Monday, a representative from Duke Energy indicated via email that they were exploring the cause of the noise. Updates to this story will be provided if they become available.