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Wandering squirrel leaves much of Ogdensburg without power

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A widespread power outage that was expected to come with Hurricane Sandy Monday arrived in Ogdensburg a day late courtesy of an unlucky squirrel.

Roughly 5,300 people in Ogdensburg were without power for a few hours Tuesday after a squirrel walked across power lines at the 19 Mill St. National Grid power station and shorted out a transformer.

Assistant Ogdensburg Fire Chief Donald J. McCarthy said a squirrel walked across the line and was killed by arcing electricity, triggering the power station to shut down.

“At least three-quarters of the city is without power,” said firefighter Jayson K. Smith.

Power was lost in large swaths of the city from Proctor Avenue and Ford Street Extension to Ford Avenue on the west side of the Oswegatchie River. City police officers and the St. Lawrence County Sheriffs Department were directing traffic at major intersections where traffic lights were powerless.

National Grid spokeswoman Virginia J. Limmiatis said the outage occurred at approximately 3:40 p.m. She said utility officials believed power would be restored by 6:30 or 7 p.m.

Substation Supervisor David A. MacMaster said the short was “felt through the [power station’s] transformer.”

Depending on the level of damage, a new transformer may need to be installed.

“It all depends on how these tests go,” said Mr. MacMaster.

He said National Grid was going to test the transformer and the connections before switching power on.

In the meantime power was to be routed through other stations near the city, said Mr. Smith.

Ms. Limmiatis said outages caused by squirrels are not unusual.

“I don’t know any specific numbers, but it happens pretty regularly,” she said.

Journal City Editor Elizabeth Lyons contributed to this report.

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