Squirrels roam the UC Berkeley campus with reckless abandon. Often, folks stop to admire these ostensibly cute, furry rodents, or even offer a morsel of food. (Don't feed squirrels.) Perhaps the abundant freedom allowed to these creatures in this Northern Californian utopia coerced one unlucky squirrel to saunter into an El Cerrito substation and blow out the power. Via Berkeleyside:
An estimated 45,000 people in Berkeley and the surrounding East Bay area experienced power outages Monday night, according to PG&E spokesman J.D. Guidi at around 9:45 p.m.
Affected areas included parts of downtown and North Berkeley, South Berkeley, West Berkeley and the Elmwood, as well as areas of Oakland, Richmond, Albany, El Cerrito and San Pablo.
A New York Times report from 2013 demonstrated that squirrels nuking power at least is not uncommon, though the reporter could not come to a conclusion as to just how often.
In Austin, Tex., squirrels have been blamed for 300 power outages a year. Other utility companies have claimed that between 7 and 20 percent of all outages are caused by some sort of wild animal, and a 2005 study by the State of California estimated, hazily, that these incidents cost California’s economy between $32 million and $317 million a year. Feral cats, raccoons and birds are also nuisances. Last month, reports surfaced in Oklahoma of great horned owls dropping snakes onto utility poles, thereby causing frequent power outages. Still, no one seems to dispute the disruptive primacy of squirrels.
You may be wondering: what comes of these rodents in the aftermath of their infrastructural disruption? Well, probably exactly what you expect.
Michael Rosen is a reporter for Fusion based out of Oakland.