Thousands lose power in St. George after animal gets into substation

Posted at 10:13 PM, Apr 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-17 00:13:36-04

ST. GEORGE, Utah - Thousands were without power in St. George and Santa Clara Thursday morning, and utility managers say wildlife is to blame

City power employees said they’re not sure what kind of animal got into the lines, but it left close to 7,800 customers in the dark. Fortunately, it happened at 4 a.m., while the majority slept.

“We had wildlife that got into the Skyline sub,” said St. George City Conservation coordinator René Fleming. “It opened a breaker that fed the 69-KV line, which is why it was so widespread.”

The outage affected pockets of residents in the downtown area, Dixie Downs and Mall Drive area. Quick response by linemen and redundancies in the system helped crews get power restored within about 45 minutes.

“We didn’t even know until we looked at the microwave,” said resident Crystal Fairbanks. “We had the zeros on the microwave, so we found out through that.”

Utility managers said outages caused by wildlife are usually rare, but this is the third such incident to occur in less than a year. An outage in October of 2014 caused by a fox in a substation contributed to the death of an elderly St. George man. His oxygen concentrator lost power during that hour-long outage.

“All the substations, the perimeter fencing is chain link, then barbed wire on top of that,” Fleming said. “[Wildlife] just have a need to get in the substations, and I suspect trying to find their way out.”

Following the two wildlife incidents last year, the city purchased a number of protectors to help keep wildlife off the power equipment. They’ve been put on a number of substations, and now the Skyline substation will be next.

“We’re going to start looking at what our other substations have and what needs to be done as well,” Fleming said.

Fleming said there were no major incidents reported during the outage.