A nesting osprey turned out the lights on thousands of Bonner County residents Tuesday night and blew out the Sheriff’s Department dispatch center.
The bird built a nest on a Bonnerville Power Administration substation just west of Sandpoint. BPA officials suspect the wind blew the bird into the power lines about 5:30 p.m., causing a major power outage.
“We ended up with a fried osprey and some broken insulators that took out power from Bonners Ferry to Newport,” said Phil Prince, a BPA spokesman.
The bird’s blunder cut power to Priest Lake, Priest River, Laclede, Sandpoint and to several areas north of Sandpoint. Some residents were without electricity for 3-1/2 hours.
Sheriff Chip Roos said the county suffered about $30,000 worth of damage from the outage. A power surge ripped through the Sheriff’s Department dispatch center, roasting computers and radio equipment.
“They weren’t blown to pieces but sparks were flying,” Roos said. “It scared the bejeebers out of the dispatcher.”
The Sheriff’s Department lost radio contact with road deputies for a few minutes until portable radios were brought in. A temporary emergency command center, a renovated bus full of electronic equipment, also was brought in.
A temporary network of mobile radios and cellular phones still is in use.
The department’s main computer and a new $32,000 computerized record-keeping system were spared.