Squirrels responsible for 14 percent of Huntsville Utilities outages in 2019

Updated: Dec. 23, 2019 at 6:30 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Huntsville’s utility system is under attack from the area’s smaller, furrier inhabitants.

Huntsville Utilities is reporting 2,884 total outages through mid-December, with squirrels being responsible for 207 of them.

Birds and other wildlife compromise 49 outages, 4 percent of the total.

Here’s a statistical breakdown of Huntsville Utilities and national estimates:

Huntsville Utilities spokesman Joe Gehrdes said outages occur when animals connect two separate lines.

“Anything that can touch two lines and complete a circuit is very dangerous," he said.

The circuit then kills the animal and knocks out power.

Gehrdes the company is implementing rubber instruments to prevent animals from completing the circuits, but squirrels and others keep finding a awy.

“A few years ago we had a raccoon get into a substation and cause a rather large outage, and a couple of customers reported raccoons burn pink when they complete a circuit,” he said.

Birds and other wildlife have caused 49 outages for the system this year.

The American Public Power Association estimates there were 15,726 outages nationwide in 2018, with squirrels comprising 1,312 (or 8.3 percent).

Association Senior VP of Engineering Services Mike Hyland said in a statement, “Maybe we are beginning to win the war on squirrels as trees caused more problems in 2018.”

Back in Huntsville, Gehrdes has a simple message for squirrels and everyone else:

“Stay away from our power lines, squirrels, people, anything. Just stay away from our power lines," he said.

He also any costs associated with repairing the lines as a result of squirrel damage are baked into current rates.

He added while moving the lines under ground would prevent squirrel damage, it would be costly for all involved and slow repair times.

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