Explosions. Fires. Blackouts. Mayhem often results when wild animals find their way into substations and start poking around.
It happens every year, hundreds of times. And every year, TransGard (NRECA Associate Member), the maker of a patented fencing product for substations, puts together a list of the five most dramatic events. “The Five Worst Animal-Caused Outages of 2017” are:
1) One squirrel = 45,000 without power. It was the noon hour in sunny central San Diego when a solitary squirrel sacrificed itself on a substation conductor. Witnesses of the July 25 blackout said they heard a loud boom before lights and laptops blinked out in more than a dozen neighborhoods served by San Diego Gas & Electric.
2) “Snakes are really bad.” While Jacksonville, Florida, slept on July 19, a large red rat snake slithered under a substation gate in Orange Park, a Westside suburb. It moved around safely before coming into contact with a circuit breaker about 6:15 a.m., causing 22,000 Jacksonville Electric Authority customers to start the day without power. “This time of year, the snakes are really bad,” said Cynthia Surrency, who lives nearby.
3) Earthquake? Nope … Raccoon. A loud explosion at a Rio Rancho, New Mexico, substation shook the ground and sent flames and sparks high up into the night sky on December 13. One neighbor said the “horrific explosion” knocked a bowl of soup off the TV tray in front of her shortly after 9 p.m. Another said the scene “looked like a UFO was landing.” The culprit was a raccoon who was “probably looking for a warm place to bed down for the night” when it stepped onto a transformer, said a spokesman for PNM, the unfortunate utility left responsible for close to 10,000 customers without power.
4) “Not uncommon:” Rodent snarls traffic. Nearly 6,000 Puget Sound Energy customers, as well as dozens of traffic lights in Puyallup, Washington, dropped off the grid at 4:53 p.m. on February 22 after a squirrel got into mischief in a substation. Animal-caused outages are “not uncommon,” said a spokeswoman for the utility.
5) Grand Canyon squirrel blows transformer. A gray squirrel gnawed through the insulation on a transformer bushing, immolating itself and blacking out Grand Canyon and three other northern Arizona communities. Grand Canyon schools were let out early after the 11:20 a.m. incident. “We have issues with packrats, prairie dogs, birds, and squirrels,” said an Arizona Public Service spokesman. “We get all kinds, even ring-tailed cats and mountain lions.”