Squirrel causes power outage
University of Idaho students on campus Saturday morning may have experienced a power outage, consequences of a squirrel blowing one
of the fuses from a main power source, said Director of Facilities, Mark Labolle.
“It is very common for animals to cause electrical outages,” he said. “In my last 20 years, there have been three other instances involving a squirrel and a power outage.”
There are two feeders that feed all of campus, one in central Moscow and the other in north Moscow, Labolle said. A feeder is a circuit that carries a large block of power from the service equipment to either a sub-feeder panel, branch circuit panel or a point at which the block power is broken into smaller circuits.
There is a three phase power that runs campus. One of these phases shut down, Labolle said, giving half the buildings on campus only partial power.
“It is a worst case possible scenario to lose only one of the phases,” he said. “I have been here 20 years and this is the first time it has ever happened.”
A lot of electronic equipment was lost and thousands of dollars of damage has already been identified, Labolle said.
When the power went out, Avista came to help UI facilities with the damage, he said. Since the damage was so severe, neither Avista nor UI had the parts to completely fix the problem, though Avista was able to get power back on.
Labolle said the correct parts had to be ordered, so campus will switch to one feeder when the electrical load is low to completely fix the problem Sunday morning. This procedure of fully switching all of campus to one feeder can be done without turning power off to campus, he said.
“No utility can guarantee that there won’t be a power outage. It is expected that we will have one or two power outages a year,” Labolle said. “People should plan for these. Just like at home, it’s no different on campus, just at a larger scale.”
Emily Aizawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org