Animals Causing Power Problems in Lynchburg

Lynchburg, VA - Power has been restored to roughly 2,300 customers in downtown Lynchburg.

Appalachian Power says a squirrel damaged a transformer Thursday, becoming the fifth animal-related power outage in recent weeks.

The outage trapped people in elevators, cut lights to city hall and shut down courts for part of the day.

AEP says it took crews about 2.5 hours to get everyone's lights back on because of one very unlucky critter.

A pair of nesting Cardinals looks innocent enough, but perched just a few feet away from the power line, is 34,000 volts of electricity. One trespasser at the Blackwater Creek Substation found out the hard way.

"A squirrel climbed up on the transformer and bridged between the insulator and the transformer. It caused a flash and caused the transformer to fail," explained AEP spokesman Larry Jackson.

The zapped squirrel knocked out power to Court Street and Commerce Street - including City Hall, the court houses and the police department.

"We lost power for probably about 10 seconds. Our backup generators kicked in and we were up and operational," said Captain Whit Clark with Lynchburg's Police Department.

No problem for them, but business at Hanna's Health came to a screeching halt.

"Maybe people thought, if they didn't know about the power, that we just weren't open," said the store's owner Shelley Fendlay.

In the last four to five weeks AEP says three squirrels and two buzzards have caused power outages in Lynchburg. A spokesman say while that's higher than average, they usually see an uptick this time of year.

"Some of the older stations it's more difficult to install the animal guards but where we can, we do. That's still not fool proof. The animals still manage to get around them at times," said Jackson.