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Squirrel knocks out power at USF, again

Published Dec. 8, 2014

TAMPA — Perhaps there's an acorn shortage.

For the second day in a row, a squirrel apparently gnawed a component at a Tampa Electric Co. substation Friday afternoon, knocking out power to 7,000 customers at the University of South Florida and nearby neighborhoods.

"Same substation, different squirrel," TECO spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said of the latest incident, which shut down power at the campus for an hour and 45 minutes Friday. Power was restored by 6 p.m.

A different squirrel at the same substation caused a 45-minute outage to 70 percent of USF Thursday morning.

"Neither one of them made it," Jacobs noted.

Animal-induced outages aren't unusual. Nearly one in five outages are caused by squirrels, birds, frogs or other creatures despite protective measures, Jacobs said. Crews are set to install safeguards at the substation next week, which should help, though she cautioned "there's no way to completely eliminate them. Sometimes the squirrels will chew right through."

In February 2013, a squirrel gnawed through an electric line at Tampa's water treatment plant, causing a power failure and forcing the city to issue a 48-hour boil-water notice, affecting 560,000 customers.

A few months later, power was lost at USF during final exams week, although a faulty transformer, not was a squirrel, was blamed.

The spate of outages have prompted opportunities for students to blow off steam. The Twitter page @USFsquirrels and Facebook page "Squirrels of USF" has been agog with puns and general silliness, such as the query, "Have you ever licked a battery? It's delicious."

Contact Rich Shopes at rshopes@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3368. Follow @richshopes.

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