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Toronto Squirrel Power Outage: A Nuisance to Infrastructure and City Dwellers

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Parts of downtown Toronto experienced a power disruption for several hours caused by an unexpected culprit – a curious squirrel that came into contact with a utility pole on Wednesday. The incident, which occurred between Rosedale Valley Road and the Gardiner Expressway, and from Church Street to the Don Valley Parkway, left around 6,500 customers without power as confirmed by Hydro officials.

Authorities were alerted to the issue following reports of a loud noise and sparks near the intersection of King Street and George Street around 10:40 a.m. Fire crews responded swiftly, finding a scorched squirrel and damaged cables at the scene. Despite the unfortunate demise of the squirrel, the disruption led to a considerable power outage that required attention from Toronto Hydro crews.

One onlooker, Gabe Martinuzzi, recalled previous incidents at George Brown College with squirrels and power lines, shedding light on the occasional challenges wildlife poses to urban infrastructure. The outage spanned from Wellesley Street East south to the waterfront and from Jarvis Street to the Don Valley Parkway, affecting businesses and residents along the waterfront.

Toronto Hydro teams worked diligently to restore the power, with the outage lasting nearly three hours before normalcy was regained in the affected areas. Justin Kehoe, a student at George Brown College, shared his firsthand account of witnessing the aftermath of the squirrel-induced outage, illustrating the chaos and inconvenience such incidents can cause for city dwellers.

Instances of animal interference with electrical infrastructure, particularly squirrels, are not uncommon in Toronto. In 2023 alone, squirrels were reported to be behind a significant number of power outages, prompting ongoing measures by Toronto Hydro to safeguard against wildlife-related incidents through guards, enclosures, and patrols.

This phenomenon isn’t exclusive to Toronto, as Cyber Squirrel Operations document global instances of wildlife disrupting power grids. Even in the U.S., an underground nuclear missile site fell victim to squirrel intrusions, underlining the widespread impact these seemingly harmless creatures can have on critical infrastructure.

Rachel Adams

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