New Brunswick

A squirrel, broken crossarm blamed for 2 Moncton-area power outages

A squirrel and a broken crossarm on a transmission line are the reasons for two blue-sky power outages in Moncton this week.

Broken trees and animals most common cause of power outages

A broken crossarm on Sunday and a squirrel on Tuesday caused power outages in the Moncton area. (Twitter)

Thousands of customers in Moncton and surrounding area have experienced two major power outages this week on days when weather shouldn't have been a factor. 

The causes: a broken crossarm on a transmission line and a squirrel. 

NB Power spokesperson Marc Belliveau said it was hard to determine why the crossarm broke Sunday, but it could have been caused by wear and tear or a lightning strike. 

"That had to be fixed and it took a couple of days." 

Belliveau said the utility had to switch the 32,000 customers on that line to functioning transmission lines, which meant  several hours of down time. 

On Tuesday, 2,600 customers were affected when a squirrel touched two points on a fuse inside the substation on Wilbur Street.

"It's really remarkable the number of incidents that occur during blue sky because obviously you are sitting home on a summer day, beautiful weather like we've had this week, and you're thinking what on earth could cause power to go out," Belliveau said.

While downed trees are the usual cause of a power outage, especially in New Brunswick, Belliveau said small animals also play a role. 

"Like squirrels, raccoons and often it's osprey, which carry very large branches … they'll drop a branch when they're trying to bring it to a nest, for example, and it will make contact with wires." 

Too expensive

NB Power says estimating a restoration time is difficult until crews can pinpoint the cause of the outage. (Michael Heenan/CBC)

After any power outage, the question of burying power lines comes up, but Belliveau said it's 10 times more expensive to bury transmission lines than to keep them the way they are. 

New Brunswick has 21,000 kilometres of distribution lines and 7,000 kilometres of transmission lines. There are only 130 kilometres of buried lines. 

"Buried lines are also a big problem if there's an issue that occurs in the wire itself because they're extremely hard to get to."

When it comes to estimated times for the restoration of the service, Belliveau said even that is hard to predict since crews have to find the cause and where it occurred before they can fix it. 

"Because of that, it becomes a challenge to put an estimated time of restoration on our website, but we understand the frustration."

With files from Information Morning Moncton