Raven on power line causes outage in downtown Aspen
A raven with incredibly bad luck triggered a power outage that disrupted business and lunch plans in downtown Aspen on Monday, city officials said.
The power was out from about 10 until 11:30 a.m., mainly in the downtown area served by city of Aspen power lines. Holy Cross Energy customers were not affected.
Tyler Christoff, the city’s deputy director of utilities, said city workers found the body of the good-sized raven below a power pole at the city’s substation at the Aspen Business Center.
“It was pretty charred,” he said.
While they didn’t see what happened, Christoff and Ron Christian, the city’s electric superintendent, believe the bird was sitting on a live wire and may have touched a nearby ground wire with its wing when it went to take off, he said. That action completed an electrical circuit and electrocuted the bird, Christoff said.
It also caused a short in the system that cut the city’s power, he said.
The particular pole it was sitting on is equipped with a lightning arrestor in the form of a crossarm that features the ground wire, he said. If lightning hits the pole, it is directed safely to the ground instead of along the power line.
Birds can sit on live wire power lines all day without getting electrocuted, Christoff said. But once they touch a ground wire, current flows through them, he said. On the power pole in question, the two wires are about a foot apart, he said.
“It’s very, very rare (for a bird to trigger an outage),” Christian said. “It has to be the perfect scenario. It’s like winning the lottery.”
Such a scenario is even rarer in Aspen — the last time it happened was about 15 years ago — because much of the city’s electrical lines are underground, Christoff and Christian said.
Once workers were called in to fix the problem, they had to reset the system at the Aspen Business Center and then make sure the circuit was still good before turning the power back on, he said.
Power in much of downtown Aspen and the West End was out, Christoff said.
Aspen police Sgt. Dan Davis said officers placed stop signs at traffic lights that were out, but that police faced no major problems as a result of the outage.
The Silver Queen Gondola on Aspen Mountain continued to run throughout the outage. An Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman said the company is on the Holy Cross grid and suffered no problems from the outage.
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