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Squirrel + transformer = no electricity


Five-hour Cornelius outage results in traffic tie-ups, office headaches

An unfortunate squirrel that found its way into a transformer in a Cornelius substation caused traffic backups and upset routines last week.

About 5,000 Cornelius residents got a taste of life before Thomas Edison when their power went out Wednesday, Aug. 28, from about 1 to 6:30 p.m.

Joel Solares, a dental assistant at Cornelius Dental Clinic, washed windows in his scrubs while the office staff waited it out.

Dutch Bros. employees kept their coolers closed and cleaned the premises during the several-hour period when they could only sell Red Bull energy drinks, tea and lemonade.

With a full schedule, Betty’s Dog Grooming employees kept their doors open, drying soggy pooches with towels instead of blow-dryers and using battery-operated clippers, thankful their largest canine customers had come in the morning.

Cornelius Public Library staff caught up on old projects, such as organizing shelves and mending books. A few locals read through the dimness, and patrons could still check out books — librarians just wrote down their account numbers on a yellow notepad.

Steve Corson of PGE said about 14 percent of outages are caused by wildlife, still far behind the number of problems caused by trees and weather. Most wildlife incidents don’t take long to repair, he said, but the Cornelius substation serves three feeder lines that go out to the city.

Corson said attentive citizens likely heard a loud bang, but it wasn’t an explosion or fire, “it was just equipment tripping offline.”

Police Chief Ken Summers said that while officers didn’t experience any out-of-the-ordinary occurrences, traffic was backed up because the traffic lights were out.

“Everybody was behaving, fortunately,” Summers said.

The jam on Adair and Baseline streets stretched for at least 10 blocks, according to Mica Annis, who spent 25 minutes trying to get to Forest Grove from Hillsboro before giving up and turning around.

Annis saw drivers texting and scheduling appointments as they inched along.

“I saw one woman filing her nails.”