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Squirrel! And that explains our power outages

September 24, 2010

An unstriped ground squirrel. Photo/Wikimedia Commons

Those power outages we’ve experienced in Mammoth lately?

There’s a reason.

As Dug the Dog (from the movie “Up”) might blurt out, “SQUIRREL!”

“You can imagine the problems we have,” sighed Dan Brady, the local public affairs regional manager for Southern California Edison.

Brady updated the Mammoth Lakes Town Council Wednesday on the utility’s ongoing battle with the squirrels. This past summer, the critters caused a number of short outages when they came into contact with exposed copper wire on utility poles in the area.

“To them (the squirrels), a utility pole is just like a tree, so it’s natural for a squirrel to climb them. In this type of area, in Mammoth Lakes, we’re all very close to wildlife. We’re in the forest.”

Specifically, he said, the squirrels get up on the utility cross-arms. “They make contact with the ground wires, they reach up too high and they electrocute themselves and cause a brief outage of service.”

Brady said that each pole is fused, however, and power flips back on quickly. The squirrels themselves, however, are not fused, and thus quickly join the Heavenly Choir.

In the past number of years, Brady said, linemen have begun installing hard plastic insulation on the exposed wire, but there still is plenty of exposed wire around town.

He also said this is not an unusual situation.

“Utilities from all over the country – Michigan, Ohio, Arizona, San Francisco – all have the same situation,” he said. “It happens.

“At Southern California Edison, we take pride in getting our customers back up safely, and we’ve taken a lot of measures to keep these squirrels from wreaking this kind of havoc.”

So far, though, the battle is up for grabs.

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