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Community / Public space

A squirrel caused a massive power outage in California

On Monday evening, a swathe of Berkeley, a university city in the San Francisco metropolitan area, experienced a massive power failure. Around 45,000 people were without electricity for two and a half hours. Traffic lights blinked off at major intersections. The area’s public transport network went down. 

Local liveblogs tripped into action, and residents waited with bated breath to hear the cause of the problem from energy providers PG&E. Back in January, another power cut left 38,000 of the company’s customers in the area without power – let’s just say they aren’t having a great year. 

But, luckily for PG&E’s customer relations department, there was a very specific culprit at fault here. Just after the power came back on, local news site Berkleyside posted a rather nonplussed update from energy providers PG&E:

A squirrel that scampered into a substation in El Cerrito caused the outage that deprived much of the East Bay of power for two and a half hours, according to PG&E.

According to a PG&E spokesperson, the animal “impacted the equipment that triggered a massive power failure”. We’re not sure quite what they mean by “impacted” – or how an animal that small could trip the entire system – but we’ll have to take their word for it.

A happy ending for PG&E then, but not so happy for the squirrel: it died, presumably from coming into contact with live electrical equipment. RIP.
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