Critter causes power outage

About 3,500 Ashland Electric Department customers went without power for nearly two hours Tuesday after a small animal got into the Mountain Avenue substation and caused an electrical short, city officials said.

It isn't clear what kind of animal caused the short, which produced a loud explosion, officials said, but it was likely a raccoon or squirrel.

"Animals, like humans, can conduct electricity just as a piece of metal can conduct electricity," Operations Supervisor Dave Tygerson said in a press release. "In this case, the animal touched an exposed conductor which caused the electrical short and the substation to shut down."

The power outage was reported at about 10:30 a.m. and lasted until about 12:15 p.m.

Drivers navigated typically busy intersections without the help of stoplights and without incident, said a spokesperson from the Ashland Police Department, which received no traffic incident reports during the power outage.

The outage also set off security alarms at Southern Oregon University, but didn't affect customers residing east of Wightman Street. Several downtown businesses reported the power outage, including the Ashland Springs Hotel, which lost power to each of its 70 rooms. The Bard's Inn, on the north end of downtown, however, wasn't affected by the outage.

Ashland High School lost power as well, but the school district did not send any students home because of the outage, said Ashland School District Superintendent Juli Di Chiro.

Tygerson said although the Mountain Avenue substation is fenced to prevent entry, sometimes small animals still find a way inside.

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or by email at swheeler@dailytidings.com.

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