An El Cerrito squirrel pondering a power grab while on a PG&E utility pole in El Cerrito.
The electrical outage that hit the East Bay this week dominated locally focused folks on social media, particularly when a squirrel that got into the Schmidt Lane substation in El Cerrito was named by PG&E as the culprit.
Twitter buzzed with comments, snark and speculation on the rodent that left several cities and some 45,000 households in the dark.
India Today: Squirrel causes massive power outage in US: The squirrel entered the substation in El Cerrito caused the outage…
Gimme Sympathy @weresoclose Squirrel assault shuts down East Bay: In a clandestine raid last night, squirrels shut down an El Cerrito, …
DarkandWondrous @DarkandWondrous: several yrs ago I was in El Cerrito nr that substation—heard a SSSZZT as a squirrel became circuit&power cut
Chris Preimesberger @editingwhiz Jun 8: A squirrel got zapped in a power station in El Cerrito, knocking out power to 45,000 homes and businesses. Sheesh.
Zach @BarroldBonds Jun 8 45,000 people in the East Bay lost power b/c a squirrel got into a substation in El Cerrito and chewed on something. Ya couldn’t make it up.
One commenter said it sounded like a squirrel terrorist attack, another speculated that the squirrel was a “scaperodent” used by PG&E to hide the real reason of the outage.
But the fact is, squirrels dying on suicide missions at the Schmidt Lane substation and bringing the East Bay to its knees is nothing new, as these examples from the Contra Costa Times archives show. In one case the guilty rodent was placed in a plastic bag and stored in a PG&E freezer in Oakland (hopefully not near an employee’s TV dinner) as evidence in case any claims came in against the utility. As the spokesperson noted, blackout by squirrel is considered an “act of nature” and not the utility’s fault. And the nature of squirrels in El Cerrito is to get into the substation and wreak havoc with the equipment. They are a crafty bunch and we suspect there is a large stash of acorns hidden somewhere in the PG&E substation.
Squirrel sparks electricity outage
About 28,000 PG&E customers in Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito and Richmond lacked power for three hours Wednesday
Publication: West County Times
Print Run Date: 5/23/2002
Dateline: EL CERRITO
An errant squirrel met an unfortunate end Wednesday when its encounter with a circuit breaker at a Pacific Gas & Electric substation in El Cerrito knocked out power to thousands of customers temporarily and knocked out the squirrel permanently.
About 28,000 customers lost power at 12:10 p.m. The outage affected homes and businesses in El Cerrito, Richmond and parts of north Berkeley and Albany. Power was flowing to all customers by 3:04 p.m.
Police reported no major problems tied to the outage. Richmond police did take to major intersections to direct traffic in place of dark traffic lights. The city’s Civic Center turned to its emergency generators.
Temporary stop signs were posted at less busy Richmond and El Cerrito intersections.
“We have animals interacting with our equipment occasionally, ” said PG&E spokesman Jason Alderman. “Something of this magnitude is rare.”
Alderman said substations are fenced in and the vegetation around them cut back, in part, to discourage curious wildlife. But given the amount of PG&E equipment and the number of critters, the occasional run-in is inevitable.
The deceased squirrel is now resting in peace in a plastic bag in an Oakland freezer, preserved as evidence for customers seeking proof that their spoiled meat and unset video cassette recorders were not the utility’s doing, Alderman said.
“If it’s an act of nature, as a squirrel is, then we’re not responsible for it, ” Alderman said.
Most customers understand, Alderman said, but “every once in a while, if someone is particularly litigious, the squirrel will be put in a cooler and taken to court.”
Squirrel cuts power to 25,000
Publication: West County Times
Print Run Date: 11/6/2000
Twenty-five thousand customers from El Cerrito to Oakland lost power Sunday morning after a squirrel got inside a transformer at an El Cerrito substation.
The power was out from about 10:25 to 11:55 a.m., said Maureen Bogues, spokeswoman for Pacific Gas & Electric.
A BART spokeswoman, Jeanie Riehl, said the power went out at 10:20 a.m. at the Berkeley BART station.
Most of the customers who lost power were in Berkeley, Bogues said.
The Berkeley BART station was closed at 10:20 a.m. after the station went dark, and it was reopened at noon, Riehl said.
Train power was not affected and service went on as scheduled, except that trains did not stop at the Berkeley station, she said.
Electrocuted squirrel causes power outage
Publication: West County Times
Print Run Date: 11/28/1999
EL CERRITO About 37,000 East Bay homes and businesses lost power Saturday afternoon after a squirrel crawled into a transformer at an El Cerrito substation and was electrocuted, a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokesman said.
The downtown Berkeley BART station briefly closed because of the outage, which began at 2:23 p.m., but it reopened at 3:08. Berkeley public-radio station KPFA had to shift to an emergency power generator during the outage.
The squirrel’s electrocution caused the circuit breakers to kick over, spokesman Jonathan Franks said. Affected PG&E customers in El Cerrito, central Berkeley, Emeryville and Albany were without power until after 3 p.m. By rerouting electricity, PG&E restored power to all except about 7,900 customers by 3:05 p.m., said PG&E spokesman Ron Low, and the rest were back in service as of 3:20 p.m.
A similar outage occurred July 4, when another curious squirrel found its way into the El Cerrito substation and was killed.
Power outage caused by curious squirrel
West County Times
Print Run Date: 7/5/1999
A power outage that affected some 38,000 customers in the East Bay on Saturday was caused by a squirrel getting into an El Cerrito substation’s transformer bank, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said.
The problem began around 12:50 p.m. and lasted until 2:10 p.m., said the utility’s Maureen Bogues. It affected customers in El Cerrito, Kensington, Richmond, Albany, Berkeley and Oakland, she said.
The outage was widespread because the transformer bank feeds three substations in Berkeley, Bogues said.
Wayward squirrel blamed for outage
West County Times
Print Run Date: 6/23/1998
El Cerrito — A squirrel that scurried into an area it shouldn’t have is being blamed for the loss of electricity to about 3,400 customers in parts of El Cerrito, Kensington, Albany and North Berkeley on Monday afternoon.
The squirrel got into a circuit breaker at the substation at the end of Schmidt Lane in El Cerrito about 1:20 p.m., said Chris Johnson, a PG&E spokesman.
Workers restored power gradually, and all the customers had electricity by 3:30 p.m., Johnson said.
The squirrel died, Johnson said.
Squirrels, birds and rats are common sources of power outages, although PG&E takes measures to keep them off equipment, Johnson said.
By comparison, the squirrels in Lafayette simply aren’t as determined or well-connected.
Squirrel is responsible for power outage
Publication: Contra Costa Times
Print Run Date: 7/28/1995
LAFAYETTE – A squirrel short-circuited some electrical equipment, cutting power to nearly 3,000 people Thursday morning, a PG&E spokeswoman said.
The outage happened about 7:45 a.m. at Stanley Boulevard and Vacation Drive and cut power to about 2,900 customers in Lafayette and a small portion of Walnut Creek. The outage also cut power to numerous stop-lights and snarled the morning commute going to Highway 24 through Lafayette.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. crews had power restored to 85 percent of the customers by 9 a.m., said Diane Sable, a company spokeswoman. The remaining customers were expected to have power back by noon, she said.
The squirrel didn’t make it, Sable said.
El Cerrito squirrels are adept at traversing the city’s electrical distribution infrastructure.
El Cerrito squirrels have been known to gather in gangs to hatch their plots.
The Schmidt Lane substation “is the terminus for high voltage electric lines bringing power from the distant Feather River.”