Owl electrocutes itself, causes outage in Pittsburg

November 30, 2009 1:40:32 PM PST
Everything is just about back to normal for hundreds of PG&E customers in eastern Contra Costa County. Hundreds were awakened by a shelter-in-place order overnight because of a downed high-voltage line.

The whole incident was caused by an owl which died, apparently trying to build a nest. Officials say the owl had a piece of metal in its beak when it flew too close to a live 60,000-volt line.

300 people received a reverse 9-1-1 phone call around 4 a.m. warning them that a line was down near their home. Contra Costa County fire officials say had someone touched it, it could have killed them.

Resident Willie Jones got the phone call warning Monday morning.

"It scares the crap out of me," he told ABC7. "I didn't know it was that much power running through."

Jones said he also felt lucky when he thought about what might have been.

"Normally, I'm leaving for work that time of day, but I don't work on Mondays. It was pretty good," he said.

The Contra Costa County Fire Department says they immediately put the shelter-in-place order in for 300 residences and left it in place for hours, even after PG&E had shut off power to the downed line. The concern was residual electricity still in the high-voltage line.

"We want to make sure that if a child wanders out into the backyard, they touch the line, it's not going to hurt them," said Battalion Chief Dave George. "That's our main care."

"It turns out that an owl actually was carrying some wire as it was flying and it hit one of our conductors," explained PG&E spokesperson Tamar Sarkissian. "And, that triggered this issue here with the wire coming down and also the outage."

While the incident was frightening for some, one woman says she was pleased by the way it was handled by PG&E and firefighters.

"They call and let us know early enough," said Leslie Owen-Jones. "And, I'm not coming outside until the lines are up though. They're still hanging."

The lines were still hanging down at 11 a.m. Monday, but PG&E said there was not any residual electricity in them and they were no longer a safety threat. The shelter-in-place order was lifted but just to be on the safe side, the public has been warned not to make contact with the wires.


Load Comments