Over 1,500 Americans Lost Power Due to One Pesky Rat "That Infiltrated a Piece of Equipment"

People were left without power for over an hour.

More than 1,500 people in Northern Virginia lost power on Friday, but it wasn't because of a storm or an overloaded grid. The culprit was a rat. Read on to find out how one critter was able to black out entire neighborhoods, and how common animal-related power failures are.

A Rat in the Works

Peggy Fox/Twitter

On Friday evening, 1,588 people in the Tysons, Virginia, area were left in the dark. On Twitter, Peggy Fox, a spokesperson for Dominion Energy, revealed the cause of the outage: a rat "infiltrated a piece of equipment." Luckily, power was restored in about an hour.

Social Media Reacts


"Oh lord," said one Twitter user. "They must be big." "Probably some rats from DC are moving to a better neighborhood," said another. "This calls for a slice," tweeted another, posting a GIF of New York City's infamous pizza rat.

Squirrel Led to Blackout for 10,000 Others

chipmunk eating birdseed on feeder
Shutterstock/Claude Laprise

Fox said that although trees and branches striking power lines are the top cause of power outages, squirrels and rats can also spell trouble for the power grid.  And in fact, this wasn't the first animal-related outage in Virginia this month. In Virginia Beach on Sept. 7, more than 10,000 residents lost power when a squirrel got into a substation. Entergy, a New Orleans-based energy company, said squirrels are its "undisputed" top cause of animal-related outages. Raccoons and birds round out the top three.

Animals Can Cause Electrical Short


"When a squirrel climbs onto an electrical transformer, it may cross the bare wire that leads from the high-voltage line to the transformer," said Unitil. "If it were to simultaneously touch this wire and a part of the transformer with sufficient electrical ground, an electrical short can cause both a power outage and the electrocution of the animal." Most power outages caused by squirrels occur in May, June, and October.

Snake Cause of One Recent Power Outage

A snake sitting in the grass in a yard or lawn

And in June, a single snake caused a major power outage in Fukushima, Japan. Nearly 10,000 homes lost power on June 29 and a large portion of Koriyama City was blacked out when a reptile slithered through an electrical substation. The local power company told reporters the outage was likely caused by the snake passing over a live wire. This created an energy surge as electricity passed through the snake's body and into other live wires, which automatically shut down power, leading to the blackout. 

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more
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