Cause of Laramie Power Outage Unknown, Was Not Exploding Animal

Damage to a electric substation kept 1/3rd of Laramie without power for nearly nine hours on Tuesday. Cause of the damage is unknown but squirrels or other animals are not believed to have caused the problem.

Mark Heinz

August 10, 20223 min read

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Damage to a substation caused a power outage that hit Laramie at 1:36 p.m. Tuesday and left some of the roughly 9,800 affected Rocky Mountain Power customers without electricity until nearly 10:30 p.m. that night.

An exact cause for the damage hadn’t been determined as of late Wednesday Morning, David Eskelsen, a spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power’s parent company PacifiCorps, told Cowboy State Daily.  

He verified only that there hadn’t been any trespass (human or animal) or vandalism at the site, which is just to the north of Laramie and just east of U.S. Highway 30. 

“We don’t know the root cause,” he said. “There was some damage to some components at that substation.” 

Minute-by-minute data records from the substation should help investigators nail down a cause, he said. 

“We don’t expect any more problems” or further outages, he said. 

A crew began working immediately after the outage to restore power. Electricity started coming back on at about 4 p.m. in some of the affected areas – which were mostly in the northern part of Laramie.  

Most customers had power by 7 p.m., and the last of them got electricity back at 10:28 p.m. The crew finished repairing the damage to the substation at about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, Eskelsen said. 

Barbecued Animals

Although an animal was not responsible for this power outage, quite frequently they are.

According to Duke Energy, squirrels are most-often the culprit behind outages.

The United States Energy Information Administration estimates that squirrels are responsible for outages affecting more than 13 million people each year.

“It’s relatively easy for technicians to discern when a critter caused an outage,” the company said. “Most likely, his charred body is still there.”

The company ranked the animals most responsible for power issues. Followed by squirrels are birds, raccoons, rats, skunks, snakes, and foxes.

Some outages are difficult to detect, the company said, because “the remains are unrecognizable.”

In one particularly sad case, a cow barbecued itself when scratching its body on a “guy wire” next to a primary line.

“When Duke workers arrived, the found the cow lying on its back, with all four legs up in the air,” the company said.

This video from 2009 in Cheyenne shows what can happen when a squirrel gets inside a substation transformer.

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter