CA - Squirrels Get a Break...Electricity Outage Due to 'Power-Hungry' Rats : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Title: Edison Workers Go Underground to Get Power-Hungry Rats

INVASION: Customers in Port Hueneme, Oxnard Lose Electricity as Vaults Cleaned Out.

By Jim McLain Ventura County Star writer Friday April 7, 2000

Oxnard and Port Hueneme residents whose alarms failed this morning can tell the boss to blame an underground invasion by about 100 very large rats.

About 200 Southern California Edison Co. customers around the intersection of Wooley and Patterson roads were to be without electricity between midnight and 7 a.m. while workers repaired or replaced badly gnawed equipment, cleaned up a fetid accumulation of rat carcasses and waste and installed barriers to prevent the rodents' return.

The animals, many about half the size of cats, are roof rats, the kind that often get into attics, said Mike Montoya, SCE's regional manager. They began calling an underground electrical vault home last fall, he said, causing sporadic outages when unfortunate nibbling brought immediate electrocution.

"Every time there's a power interruption, yeah, one of them gets zapped," said Montoya. "The first time we found this our crews had to call out a company to come in and steam clean the entire vault. It was disgusting."

That's happened two or three times in the past six months, Montoya said. Workers couldn't figure out how they did it, but the rats went through an above-ground metal box and got into a supposedly protected cable duct that led them to the vault.

Montoya said pest control technicians told his crews the rats are eating in trash dumpsters at two nearby restaurants and a convenience store and taking refuge in the vault.

Called Norwegian roof rats, the animals eat voraciously and will tunnel underground, said technician Dan McGranahan of Green's Pest Control in Ventura. They must gnaw to control the fast growth of their incisors.

"They have to continually gnaw those teeth down," McGranahan said. They can propagate every 28 days in litters of about 12.

After another outage last week, Edison crews finally figured out how the rodents were getting in and made plans to stop them.

The fix involved switching some power to a second nearby vault while the repairs were made. But when it was opened Wednesday, they discovered it had also been infested. A third unaffected vault was to be used to make the switch.

"They'll do the switching there," said Montoya. "They'll kill all the transformers and all the line from that clean vault in order to work on the other two vaults."

To breathe and to protect themselves from disease, workers in the infested vaults were to don masks and hooded suits similar to those worn by hazardous materials cleanup crews. The job was expected to be completed by 7 a.m., including the installation of heavy-duty grating and other materials to block future invasions, Montoya said.

Though the vaults are near Wooley and Patterson roads, the blackout area is west of Offshore Street, east of Patterson Road, north of Marina Avenue and south of Taffrail Lane. Almost all of the 200 affected customers are residents, he said.

Montoya said he's never seen a situation like this one.

"It's really incredible," he said. "They're big, nasty-looking creatures."

-- Jim McLain's e-mail is


-- (, April 07, 2000


"But Wesley -- what about the arouesses?" "Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist."

-- L. Hunter Cassells (, April 07, 2000.

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