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Squirrel sparks brief power outage in downtown Mitchell

Gene Haiar, left and Josh Harvey with the Mitchell Department of Public Safety put up a stop sign at the corner of First Avenue and Main Street in Mitchell after a power outage caused the stop lights to go out on Thursday morning. (Matt Gade / Republic)

A squirrel sparked a 41-minute power outage Thursday morning in downtown Mitchell and much of the city’s historic downtown district was left without electricity.

According to Tom Glanzer, a spokesperson for NorthWestern Energy, 491 customers lost power after a squirrel got onto a power line near Fifth Avenue and Main Street. The squirrel likely grounded itself, was electrocuted and triggered an event on the line.

“A half-block west of Fifth and Main is where the squirrel met his maker,” Glanzer said.

And while NorthWestern has some safeguards to avoid these situations, Glanzer said it’s not uncommon for squirrels to cause outages.

“With trees and things, squirrels are crafty, they’re going to get on the line if that’s what they think they need to do,” Glanzer said.

The outage lasted from 11:14 a.m. to 11:55 a.m., causing the Mitchell Department of Public Safety to send workers to set up street signs to help direct traffic. Several street lights were also out of service south of Seventh Avenue and Main Street, leaving drivers fending for themselves, but northern Mitchell avoided the outage. Mitchell City Hall remained open throughout the event, as it had electricity.