Squirrels and electricity: A shocking problem
The bushy-tailed rodents are responsible for tens of thousands of costly power outages each year.
They seem cute, alright, but watch out: It appears America's squirrel population is hell-bent on plunging us humans into the dark, while wreaking havoc on the nation's infrastructure.
These furry, long-tailed rodents have been responsible for power outages for decades. Several years ago USA Today reported squirrels that electrocuted themselves by jumping onto transformers or chewing into power lines were to blame for tens of thousands of blackouts annually.
But a reporter at The New York Times did his best to keep track of power outages blamed on squirrels this summer, and he came up with some startling (or perhaps electrifying?) results.
Jon Mooallem says he became interested in the subject this past April, after reading about how a squirrel knocked out power in Tampa, Fla., putting hundreds of homes there in the dark and suspending state student achievement tests at several local schools.
Mooallem then set up a Google (GOOG) news alert for the term, "squirrel power." And during the 100 or so days between Memorial Day and Labor Day he recorded 50 major, squirrel-related power outages in 24 states. And, as he noted, these 50 blackouts "are only those power outages severe enough to make the news."
So many of these squirrel electrocution/power outages take place that no one seems to have any real data on the overall economic damage the animals cause.
Of course, utilities often take the biggest financial hit. Georgia Power estimated squirrel-related damage cost the company $2 million in 2006, according to USA Today. And a spokeswoman for Austin Energy recently told KXAN-TV in the Texas capital that the animals cause more than 300 power outages every year.
But squirrels appear to be conspiring to bring down America's stock markets, too. The Nasdaq exchange halted trading for 40 minutes in 1987 and again for 34 minutes in 1994 due to squirrel-related power disruptions. And The Wall Street Journal's Moneybeat blog was only half-joking when it reported that no squirrels were believed responsible for the most recent Nasdaq trading disruption, three hours long, on Aug. 22.
You lose your power for a couple of hours. The squirrel loses a lot more than that!
Who really had the bad day here?
It is easy to blame the furry litle cute critters for the damage they do and there is a lot of proof they are guilty. But, has anyone got any ideas how to slow it down? One CEO once told me, there is no problem unless someone knows a way to solve what is described as a problem! Otherwise, it is just an expense of running a business.
But, if you are in an area often hit by these outages, then you get the idea of how big the problem really is. I tried to keep squirrels out of a pecan tree in my yard last year because I had a good crop about ready to harvest. You have probably heard of flying squirrels. But, the red or fox squirrel so common throughout the USA evidently comes very close to flying the same way also. I have seen them run and jump (or fly) from one oak tree to the next numerous times. But, putting a cone on the trunk and trimming the tree so there was at least a five to six foot gap to higher limbs from the house roof and nearby fence and more than ten feet from an adjacent oak, at least one little critter regularly got into that tree. I saw it there and saw it leave several times, wondering how it got there. I know they cannot jump more than about four feet high. Evidenlty they jump from a thin branch high in the adjacent tree and catch a small thin branch lower in the pecan tree.
It is very common to see the smart little rascals running very fast along a power line. They obviously can get there from adjacent trees besides climbing the pole. They pop very loud when climbing around on a transformer and making the wrong connections. Thta, of course is when the lights go out and the computer, TV and clocks go out of service instantly!
Human = mammal=greed=destruction
Hey I know of plenty drunk drivers that knocked down power poles.
They should get executed for disturbing my power supply
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