Each year, TransGard tracks hundreds of substation outages caused by climbing animals and birds to compile our list of the worst outages of the year. Even though squirrels typically lead the list of animal offenders, this year our list found “infractions” evenly distributed between mammals, reptiles, and birds, showing that the challenge of animal-caused outages come from a variety of directions — and shows no sign of slowing down.
Here is TransGard’s list of the Six Worst Outages for 2021 — each involving costly repairs and damaged reputations for utilities and substation operators:
The Doctor Can’t See You: About 2,500 customers — including WVU Medicine Camden Clark Medical Center — lost power in late November when a squirrel entered an electrical substation in Parkesburg, West Virginia, and came in contact with critical equipment. Many patients had to be rescheduled because of reduced capacity.
Chain Reaction Outage Stalls A City: A squirrel intruder in Emporia, Kansas, created a short circuit in a substation which resulted in a fire. The fire caused more than 100 small-scale outages across the region, which interrupted power to the Lyon County Courthouse, the Newman Regional Health Center, KVOE-AM radio, LCAT transit services, downtown businesses, traffic signals, and more.
Raccoons on Repeat: In mid-April, a raccoon caused a power outage in the Eagle River Valley area of Colorado when it infiltrated a substation. The resulting fire shut down service to thousands of residents from Vail to Avon. This was not the first time a raccoon has caused a power outage in Eagle County. Raccoons have disrupted substations in the same region in 2007 and 2020.
Snake Shuts Down Signals: A snake crawled into a substation in Evans, Georgia, in early June, creating a short circuit, tripping a security system, and shutting down the substation. More than 7,000 residents were without service, and regional law enforcement was dispatched to take over traffic direction due to signal lights that had been knocked out in the process.
One Raccoon; 11,500 people in the Dark: A raccoon sneaked into a Verona, Wisconsin, substation in early May, resulting in multiple outages across the state capital. More than 11,500 residents and businesses lost power for several hours. Fire crews and emergency services responded to the substation’s alert system, and local medical centers shifted to auxiliary power sources while service was restored.
Thanksgiving Day Payback: A flock of birds roosted in a California substation on Thanksgiving Day, causing intermittent power interruptions across several hours — and disrupting holiday meal preparations — for more than 3,500 residents.
This list represents a fraction of all animal-caused outages, many unreported, at substations in every region and climate of the U.S. While some substation operators take steps to prevent animal incursions, thousands of at-risk substations remain unprotected.