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Squirrel knocks out power in northwest Dickinson

DICKINSON - Things got a little squirrely at a Montana Dakota Utilities substation in northwest Dickinson on Tuesday morning.

At approximately 7:47 a.m., a squirrel ran into the substation and caused an electrical fault that resulted in the shut down of the substation.

Jacob Zettel, the electric superintendent for MDU, said the squirrel most likely caused a flashover between two phases, causing the main fuses in the substation to open.

"All of the equipment protection devices operated according to plan," Zettel said.

According to MDU estimates, 1,455 customers lost power when the substation went down. During the outage, 2.9 megawatts of load was lost.

The area affected was the north and west side of Dickinson stretching down as far south as Villard Street.

Power was restored to customers at 9:04 a.m.

Zettel added that squirrels cause several outages each year.

The outage could have been much worse. This past May, in Tirana, Albania, a cat chased a mouse into a set of high voltage cables, frying themselves and causing a 72-hour blackout.

Zettel said the squirrel possibly suffered the same fate.

"It most likely wasn't there anymore," Zettel said. "It was probably a charred ball on the ground by the time we got there."