CALCUTTA - St. Clair Township residents awoke Saturday morning to find that they had lost electrical power for the second time in as many days.
Friday's episode had left approximately 3,200 customers without power from 12:50 to 2 p.m., including many of the businesses along state Route 170 in the township. According to Dave Wheeler, general manager of Community Affairs and Economic Development at AEP Ohio, a squirrel had found its way into AEP's Calcutta substation, climbed the metal structure, strayed across a live busbar and was electrocuted, tripping a breaker in the process.
Wheeler said the breaker on the affected circuit would need to be replaced. In the meantime, AEP crews rerouted customers from the failed circuit onto the second of two 138,000-volt feeds that run through the station. "We can use one transformer to back up the other," he explained.
Then, at 7:46 a.m. Saturday morning, AEP Ohio began receiving calls of another power failure in the same area. Utility crews were again dispatched to diagnose the failure. "Lo and behold, we found another squirrel," he said. "It's just one of those things."
The second breaker, was which now carrying all the substation's load, had also failed, leaving 3,200 residents without electricity again.
Wheeler said AEP was able to shift the power load from the Calcutta substation to neighboring stations, but had to do so gradually rather than all at once. "What we had to do is add it slowly so that the load didn't trip the other breakers at the other stations connected to the grid," he explained. Throughout the day, workers detoured the power a little at a time until full power was restored to the area by 4:30 p.m.
Wheeler said that crews continue working to replace both tripped breakers and that, barring any further squirrel-related incidents, the station should return to its regular function in a few days.
"We're on it, and we've been working at it," he said.