Squirrels Are Behind Most Power Outages in the U.S.

July 26, 2022

Mountaineer News

BUCKHANNON - If your power has ever gone out on a beautiful day, you may have been the victim of a squirrelly attack.

If you're out a bit more in the rural areas of Upshur County, you may encounter a sudden loss and immediate restoration of power (or a 'flicker off -flick on' experience) on the daily.

Seeing how we compiled this story last night, we can throw in the Brushy Fork and westward area outage between 3:00am and 7:20ish this morning, July 26th.

It's squirrels who are responsible for an impressive number of electrical issues each year.

It’s tricky to get a real sense of how many outages squirrels manage to cause, but experts agree, the numbers are daunting.

Squirrels and their partners in crime cause about 10-20 percent of all power outages, according to the Washington Post.

Squirrel-induced power outages tend to be more localized and more quickly fixed than those caused by storms, since one little rodent can only chew so much. But they’re still a real issue. Each one can affect as many as 13,000 people at a time, and in 2015, squirrel blackouts cost one state $11 million!

There is one small silver lining to this nutty problem. Because of everyday issues like squirrel attacks, there are actually a lot of redundancies built into the US electrical grid that make it more resilient. That means outages don’t ripple across huge portions of the country.

Electricity companies have a collection of techniques to try to protect their wires from rascally squirrels, like plastic coverings on poles where wires intersect and rotating caps that squirrels can’t grip onto long enough to let them do any damage. But they’re up against a powerful foe, since squirrels never stop teething.

Other animals, including birds, raccoons, and snakes, also cause power outages on occasion, but squirrels are far and away the most common culprit.

So, you may be wondering... how do these little cute and fuzzy critters wreak havoc on the electrical grids

1. Chewing Through Power Lines and Electrical Insulation

Squirrels love chewing on power lines because they are made of an ideal material for their teeth - soft enough to chew through but tough enough to provide a good workout for their jaws. When squirrels chew on power lines, it can cause damage to the electrical insulation. Without the proper insulation, the power line can easily overheat and catch fire or short circuit, which often leads to a squirrel power outage.

2. Getting into Substations and Other Electrical Equipment

Another way that squirrels can cause power outages is by causing damage to substations and other electrical infrastructure. Squirrels like going inside substations because they offer a warm, quiet, and dark place for squirrels to nest. These rodents are capable of causing a great deal of harm if they break into substations. They can gnaw on cables, topple over equipment, and trigger transformer fires and explosions, all of which can lead to a squirrel power outage.

3. Tunneling

Squirrels are responsible for a significant number of power disruptions due to their habit of tunneling. When they dig their burrows, they often cause damage to the electricity lines that are buried underneath the ground. Due to this, the lines can experience a short circuit, which often results in a power outage.