Electrocuted Squirrel Causes Power Outage

A squirrel electrocuted himself while playing on high voltage wires yesterday, causing three West Penn Power substations to shut down and render customers in middle Armstrong County without power.

by David Croyle

Three West Penn Power substations shut down yesterday halting electric service to the Kittanning-Ford City area after a squirrel playing on an electric pole came in contact with the wires and was electrocuted.

West Penn Armstrong County Area Manager Rob Lombardo explained how it happened.

“‘It was a squirrel that caused one of our breakers to trip. Sometimes it just their tail that causes the outage. The lines that you see above most of the roads in the Kittanning area and Ford City – you see the three wires up on the poles. The squirrel will get against the fuse. The fuses are tied to those three lines. If they cross any of those, they become the conductor. Just like your breakers in your house, if there is too much voltage going through it, it trips the breaker. That’s what happens when the squirrel or birds, or other creatures actually get into the lines.”

Lombardo said the outage affected 7,300 customers in middle Armstrong County extending from Ford City, through Manor Township, Kittanning, Applewold, West Kittanning and portions of East Franklin and North Buffalo townships. The outage occurred at approximately 3:23 PM. Power was restored at approximately 4:06 PM.

Lombardo said when the squirrel was electrocuted, it blew a “breaker” in their substations.

“Everybody has breaker boxes. Everyone has fuses. When something happens like that, it trips our fuses. We have multiple circuits that come out of multiple substations, and then they tie together.”

Lombardo said that when crews arrived, the squirrel was deceased.

“That’s actually the hard part for us. We’ve had eagles, hawks, squirrels, and you go out and find the carcass.”

Lombardo said that he still likes to watch as the wildlife perform their daring acrobatic maneuvers on power lines.

“You’ve gotta love these little critters. They cause us so many nightmares!”

The power outage frustrated visitors to the final day of the Fort Armstrong Folk Festival. Also radio station WTYM and Family-Life TV were temporarily off the air due to the loss of electricity.