Squirrel Causes Power Outage for Over 9,000 Minnesota Residents

by Samantha Whidden

A Minnesota squirrel reportedly caused a power outage that impacted more than 9,000 residents over the weekend.

Fox News reports that the incident with the squirrel happened on Sunday (September 11th). Energy provider Xcel revealed that the outage lasted about an hour before crews were able to restore most of the power. The company’s spokesperson, Lacey Nygard shared, “What happened is that a squirrel came into contact with some of our equipment that caused the outage.”

Although the outage did not last very long, it is unclear what exactly happened to the squirrel following the situation. Fox News further cites from the American Public Power Association that animals are the leading cause of power outages in the U.S. More outages usually occur in areas that have overheated transmission lines that run through trees. Animals will accidentally cause an outage by just running along the lines and shock themselves. 

The media outlet adds that the outage in Minnesota this past week is just the most recent U.S. blackout due to a squirrel. 

Another Squirrel Caused Power Outage For 10,000 Virginia Beach Residents Last Week 

Meanwhile on the east coast, another squirrel caused a power outage for 10,000 Virginia Beach residents last Wednesday (September 7th). The outage lasted around 90 minutes. 

At the time of the outage, Dominion Energy spokesperson, Bonita Billingsley Harris stated, “The squirrel got between a circuit break and a transformer, causing a power surge that made the transformer fail.”

Unfortunately, while the power was restored, Dominion Energy shared that it doesn’t believe the squirrel had survived. This is due to getting into a substation and causing the outage. 

Utility company Unitil shared that squirrels actually cause an average of 8.5% of its outages each year. This is due to the animals traveling on the lines. “When a squirrel climbs onto an electrical transformer, it may cross the bare wire that leads from the high-voltage line to the transformer. If it were to simultaneously touch this wife and a part of the transformer with sufficient electrical ground, an electrical short can cause both a power outage and the electrocution of the animal.” 

The utility company further explained that because the animals are most active in the fall and spring, 48% of outages by squirrels and other wildlife happen during the months of May, June, and October. “Studies show that the installation of ‘critter guards’ on pole-mounted transformers can reduce animal damage by as much as 78%.”

Unitil encourages customers to avoid outages by placing feeders away from power lines and waiting to clear dead trees, which are common homes for baby squirrels until the summer. It is also advised to install “critter guards” as well.  “You can help avoid some shocking encounters,” the utility company added.