Each year, TransGard, an industry-leading manufacturer of products that protect substations against animal incursion, 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 — as they did again in 2022 — this year we found plenty of species represented, showing that the challenge of animal-caused outages comes from a variety of directions — and shows no sign of slowing down.
Here is TransGard’s list of the Six Worst Outages for 2022 — each involving costly repairs and irritated customers:
Delay of Game: On March 3, a squirrel climbed into a substation in Marquette, MI, and tripped an emergency switch, leaving more than 3,500 residents without power for an hour and a half. Among those affected were the teams and fans attending that evening’s NCAA basketball game between Northern Michigan University and Lake Superior State.
(La) Cross Residents: It was not the heavy thunderstorms on June 15 that left 9,300 customers in the city of La Crosse, WI, without power: it was a raccoon in a substation. Outages were reported across the city, including some traffic signals, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, the School District of La Crosse, and Mayo Clinic Health Systems.
The Rule of Threes:: Squirrels were responsible for three outages in three weeks across three substations in Chelsea, MI, during the month of July. But they weren’t the only culprits. Other 2022 outages in that location were caused by opossums, hawks, and other birds which either climbed, dropped, or flew into substations.
Schools Out, Part I: On September 7, more than 10,000 residents, including a local high school and elementary school, were left without power in Virginia Beach, VA, when a squirrel climbed into a substation, created a circuit and interrupted service.
School’s Out, Part II:: A squirrel in a substation was the cause of a campus-wide blackout — and cancelation of all non-essential operations for the day — at the University of Southern Mississippi in early October.
“I was giving a midterm exam in a room that doesn’t have any windows,” said one professor. “There was a ‘boom’, and then everything got dark.”
Another year, another Thanksgiving Day Payback:
Last year, a flock of birds roosted in a California substation and knocked out power on Thanksgiving Day. This year, birds entered a substation just
outside of Phoenix, knocking out power to some 2,000 residents and disrupting holiday preparations.
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.