An overactive squirrel wreaked havoc in St. Clair for almost an hour early Saturday when it caused a power outage in about half of the city.
Ameren Missouri spokesman Kent Martin told The Missourian on Monday that the animal “visited” the substation on Center Street and caused the outage.
“Small animals such as squirrels seek shelter inside our substations where, unfortunately, they come into contact with electricity,” Martin said. “This can occur this time of year as the seasons change and winter nears.”
Some residents near the substation said they heard a “large pop” early Saturday before they lost their electricity.
Charlie Haverstick, who already was in the old grocery store’s parking lot along North Commercial Avenue at that time roasting pork for the Friends for Change organization’s fund-raiser later that day, said he heard the loud “pop” that sounded like a power surge.
“When the squirrel came into contact with our line, it grounded the circuit which led to the outage,” Martin said, adding that the power loss mainly hit the eastern half of St. Clair.
The outage area extended to areas along Highways TT and K outside the city limits.
Ameren said the incident occurred at about 6:30 a.m. and affected about 2,300 local customers. Electricity was restored in about 45 minutes.
“Power was redirected around our system to our customers,” Martin said in explaining how Ameren put a temporary band-aid on the problem as soon as it could. “We are going to repair the lightning arrestors at our substation that were damaged by the incident.”
A substation is a part of an electrical generation, transmission, and distribution system.
St. Clair Police Chief Bill Hammack confirmed the outage hit city hall, but said there were no known problems associated with the incident there or anywhere in the city.
Currently, the city has no backup power source at city hall. However, a generator has been ordered and soon will be installed, City Administrator Rick Childers said on Monday.
“I know it (generator) has been ordered,” Childers said. “I expect the work to begin soon.”
In September, the board of aldermen approved spending about $86,000 on an emergency backup generator that should guarantee city hall would keep operating during a power outage.
Brda Electric Inc. of Fenton was the lowest of three bids received by the city for the generator and its installation. The natural gas-powered unit will be able to run city hall, including the police department, in case of some kind of weather-related or other emergency.
Brda’s “turnkey” bid was $85,900.
Childers researched generators for months after the board of aldermen approved money for one in the city’s 2013 budget. City officials placed the generator near the top of their priority list a year ago, and money was placed in the 2013 budget for that purpose.