Why are the lights out? Blame the squirrels and trampolines

Power outages are no laughing matter. But some of the causes of power outages? Well, consider some of the stranger things blamed for blackouts in the US last year, as summed up in the Eaton Corporation’s annual Blackout Tracker report:

  • Flying trampolines: Gusty winds in Spokane, Washington, on April 30 turned someone’s trampoline into a missile that struck a utility substation. The result? Some 11,000 people left without power.
  • Flying deer: A bald eagle soaring over East Missoula, Montana, on March 25 lost its lunch … literally. The fawn it had killed slipped from the eagle’s grasp and hit some power lines, leading to a 30-minute-long power outage.
  • Lithuanian balloons: More than 500 hot-air balloons from around the world were in New Mexico for the 40th Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta on Oct. 2, but it took only one of them — a visitor from Lithuania — to knock out area traffic lights when it became tangled in some power lines (no balloonists were harmed).
  • Busy beavers: Colorado beaver meets Aspen tree on Oct. 9. Beaver chews down said tree. Tree falls onto power lines. Two-hundred forty people in Durango lose power.
  • Haboob: Gesundheit? No, not a sneeze, but an “intense dust storm carried on an atmospheric gravity current.” When a haboob 50 miles wide and thousands of feet tall roared over Phoenix on July 5, some 10,000 residents found themselves left in the dark.

Throughout 2011, in fact, animals, bad weather and weather-related falling trees accounted for nearly half of the 3,071 blackouts reported in the US. The worst culprit in the animal kingdom? The squirrel, by a landslide (130 outages to its credit), followed by birds (34), raccoons (9), snakes (8) and cats (4).


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