Squirrel death causes Ames power outage


Houses and apartments in various parts of Ames were without power for 52 minutes.

Claire Hoppe, Voices editor

A squirrel once described as “cute and furry” by Donald Kom met its demise Thursday morning after sparking a power outage in parts of Ames. 

Kom, the director of Ames’ electrical department, said the power outage began at 11:20 a.m. and lasted for approximately 52 minutes. Kom said the squirrel initially started the power outage at the Stange substation, but neighborhoods connected to the Ontario substation were the ones left without power. 

Kom said the squirrel climbed to the top of a pole that houses electrical switches near the Stange station and had one foot on a live wire while the other was on a grounded wire.

“So in other words, you’ve got like a live wire in one hand, or in one paw I guess, and you have a grounded end of the switch on the other,” Kom said. This led the squirrel to become a conduit for power. 

Kom then said the electricity went through the squirrel’s body and into the ground, zooming back up the pole and hitting a shield wire. The shield wire got a jolt from “our furry friend” and burned part of it, Kom said. After the shield wire burned, Kom said it swung and hit a transmission voltage and the breakers at Stange and Mortenson opened, leaving the Ontario station without power.  

“All of the safety things that we want to happen happened, and the breakers opened up to protect everything, but then that basically made Ontario not have a source [of power],” Kom said.

Kom said he was proud of his team, who worked to restore power to customers in a timely manner while keeping safety as their top priority. Kom said, except for the squirrel, everyone and everything worked in the way it should have.

After 52 minutes in the dark, power was restored to Ames residents, but unfortunately, the squirrel could not be revived. 

“He is no longer with us,” Kom said.