Squirrel causes blackout

A squirrel caused an almost 40-minute power outage on the eastern side of the USF campus Thursday. The squirrel initiated the blackout when it came in contact with one of the campus’ main electricity supply units in the university’s substation.

The shortage affected most areas of campus from the Phyllis P. Marshall Center to the Sun Dome, said Arthur Ebanks, senior utility supervisor for the Physical Plant.

Ebanks said the power shut down at about 1:05 p.m. He said it took 35 minutes for representatives from Tampa Electric to restore the power in the substation, located behind the Physical Plant.

Ross Bannister, spokesman for Tampa Electric, said the squirrel caused the lightning arrestor to burst.

“That’s one of the primary reasons for outages,” Bannister said. “The hard part was finding out where the problem is, but it’s a pretty easy repair.”

Bannister said the company will be responsible for repair costs.

Bannister said the shortage only affected the eastern portion because the arrestor that burst was located on the side controlled by TECO and acts as a main power supply.

“It’s like a He-man version of a surge suppressor,” Bannister said.

The lines in the substation are divided by circuits that feed directly to USF and other areas that are controlled by TECO, Bannister said.

The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center did not experience any power outages, according to a media relations representative. And only portions of the Library went without power, said Michael Menez, a student assistant in the Library.

The Campus Recreation Center, however, was left without lights and air conditioning. Students continued activities in the center at their own risk, said Renee Seay, administrative assistant for the Center.

If the outage were longer, Seay said the center would have had to close its operations because there would be no ventilation in the building. But the only equipment affected, she said, were treadmills.

Bannister said small animals are often the main cause of power shortages in the area. Bannister said USF was the only area to suffer a power outage, but other times tree limbs and palm fronds lean over lines in a substation and cause a blackout.

Contact Grace Agostin at oraclegrace@yahoo.com