New Albany, MS- The power blackout that put half of New Albany in the dark, Friday night, Sept. 2, was caused by an animal species 25-million years old.
A few minutes before 8 p.m. Friday night, the eastern half of New Albany and a large part of northern Pontotoc County lost electricity for nearly two hours. Repair crews from New Albany Lights, Gas and Water (NALGW) arrived at the electric substation complex on the east side of town a few minutes later. They quickly determined that the failure had originated with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).
It would be close to two-hours before TVA work crews could be at the scene. NALGW crews starting looking for ways to by-pass that substation and get electric power restored sooner than that.
NALGW Manager, Bill Mattox, said New Albany utility workers tied the lights-out customers to two other local substations, the one on Butler St. and the other at North Haven. The lights came back on in the interrupted areas a few minutes under two hours from the time the original failure occurred. Power to NALGW customers was actually restored before TVA crews arrived in New Albany.
The TVA repair crews then worked through the night to repair the damage to their own substation, located on the same grounds as the NALGW substation, at the intersection of Highway 348 and, you guessed it, Substation Road. At about 5:30 a.m. the TVA workers discovered the cause of the damage to their equipment: a common North American raccoon, species Procyon lotor.
The ‘coon paid the ultimate penalty for vandalizing the federal government’s substation: its cooked carcass was found at the scene.
Mattox said the same thing has happened before. About four years ago a raccoon touched a high kilowatt component of NALGW’s own substation on the southwest side of the Toyota plant. That raccoon also paid with his life for that malfeasance. It also cost citizens of New Albany, the rightful owners of NALGW, $50,000 dollars to repair the damage to some highly engineered equipment. It is not known how much it cost the federal government to fix its TVA substation in New Albany, but 50 grand is nothing to those guys. Right?
It is not clear why raccoons attack high voltage electrical power distribution equipment. The species survives by eating small animals and plants, so there’s clearly no benefit to their health. Raccoons are credited by biologists with uncommonly high intelligence. Like humans, they have highly dexterous front paws, and they are said to be fast learners, able to remember the solutions to problems they have solved previously for three years or longer.
Perhaps, it’s because they are like those of us human beings who are overly curious thrill seekers–they just can’t help themselves, and are incapable of learning wisdom. Maybe with them, as with us, Alexander Pope nailed it in his famous poem: “A little learning is a dangerous thing.”