By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – You can blame our little feathered friends for the power glitches that have hit the city over the past few days.
“We’ve had some bird related outages,” said Joe Newman, manager of the Water Valley Electric Department. “This time of year the English sparrows and starlings are the worst.”
In most cases the power interruptions were brief – just long enough to kick off computers and cause clocks to flash.
Animal-related power outages account for a large percentage of electrical service interruptions. Squirrels or birds physically touching, contaminating, or nesting on high voltage equipment cause most of these animal-related interruptions, according to a report from Mississippi State University.
Mississippi Power Company alone had 1133 reported animal-related outages in 2004, causing 565,000 customer minutes of interrupted electrical service. This translates into millions of dollars lost due to reduced power use, man-hours paid for repair, and the cost of replacing damaged equipment, the report said.
According to Newman, there are many areas in a power system with which animals can come into contact. “There is no way to cover up everything,” he said.
And, birds aren’t the only culprits. Newman said that squirrels, raccoons, cats and the occasional reptile have caused problems for the local electrical system.
He recalled an incident several years ago in the wee hours of the morning when he found a six-foot chicken snake at the bottom of a pole after it had slithered across a transformer.
While birds seem to prefer warm weather, the squirrels become more active in the fall. Newman said that with the arrival of cooler weather, more squirrels are seen running on the lines. “When a squirrel gets on a transformer, he’s gone.”