America’s electrical power grid is so fragile that even squirrels can knock it. Believe it or not, squirrels have caused 623 electrical outages in recent decades.
That’s according to a new website, CyberSquirrel1.com, that traces the number of times squirrels, birds, raccoons, rats, beavers and even snakes cause power outages. Although the map covers the entire world, the overwhelming majority of outages on the map took place in the United States.
A typical example of a squirrel-related outage occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in January, when a squirrel on a live wire near a substation caused so much havoc that power was out for five hours. It was the second time since November that a squirrel prompted a blackout there.
Another blackout took place in Evansville, Indiana, on January 2. That blackout, described as a major outage, caused traffic to come to a standstill on a freeway and lasted nearly an hour. The squirrel knocked out power by jumping onto a transformer at a local substation.
Still another example took place in Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania, in October 2013, where a squirrel knocked out power and caused at least $20,000 in damage.
(Listen to Off The Grid Radio’s in-depth look at the vulnerability of the power grid here.)
In addition to squirrels, the website also lists:
- Birds causing 214 blackouts.
- Raccoons responsible for 52 power outages.
- Snakes causing 47 outages.
- Rats knocking out power 25 times.
- Beavers blamed for nine blackouts.
The situation likely is far worse than the website indicates, as these figures are merely the outages that CyberSquirrel1’s writers could discover. The website says there also are “many more” that “remain classified.”
Animals usually knock out the grid by jumping or crawling onto transformers or wires and shorting them out. Since most powerlines sit out in the clear, there is little or no way to protect them from animals.
Peter Pry, the author of the new book Blackout Wars and the executive director of the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security, told Off The Grid Radio that Americans should take note of the grid’s vulnerability. He pointed out that the Northeast Blackout of 2003 that put 50 million Americans in the dark was called by a fallen tree branch in Ohio.
“Thousands of people living in New York City had to walk across the bridge because the subways wouldn’t run, when a fallen tree branch caused cascading failures that put the entire Northeast, including New York City, in a blackout,” Pry said. “… If a fallen tree branch in Ohio can black out the Northeastern United States, imagine what a nuclear EMP would do. You don’t have to be a physicist to understand these things.”
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