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Squirrel blamed for power outage at Tampa condo

TBO.com staff
Published:   |   Updated: October 14, 2013 at 01:48 PM

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Another squirrel has paid the ultimate price after noshing on a power line and cutting electricity to about 60 Tampa Electric Co. customers Sunday evening.

TECO was called to restore service at Bayshore Landings, 5221 Bayshore Blvd., in the Ballast Point area about 6 p.m., the utility said. The power was out less than an hour, a TECO spokeswoman said.

Witnesses said they saw the squirrel gnawing through something on a power pole behind the complex’s parking lot. Residents heard a loud bang before the power went out.

“I thought a car had crashed,” resident Meghan Souza said.

Afterward, a noticeably burned squirrel was on the ground at the pole’s base.

“It was up there chewing on the wires and it just blew up. I saw a big flash.” said Sammy Bekely, who was sitting in his car in the lot. “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. That was a one-in-a-million shot.”

Actually the odds are much lower. TECO has said about one in five outages are caused by animals.

This outage was on a relatively small scale compared with other squirrel-induced outages this year.

A chewing squirrel was suspected as the cause of a massive outage at a Tampa water treatment plant in February. The outage led to a boil-water notice for more than 500,000 TECO customers. The utility has since undertaken a $1.2 million effort to harden the power supply to the plant to avoid a rodent reprise.

In April, three schools in the West Shore district lost electricity on a day students were to take FCAT tests. A squirrel running across a power line that touched a grounded pole was the cause. The outage affected 700 TECO customers.

The squirrels died in those cases, too.

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