B AYVIEW, Idaho A tiny town that barely suffered frostbite from the recent ice storm was in the dark for hours Tuesday.
The juice didn’t dry up due to ice or snow. This power outage came from below the earth, not from the sky.
More than 900 homes in Bayview were incapacitated by a hungry gopher that got a 14,000-volt eye-opener. It seems the varmint tried to chow down on an underground power line. Bayview went dark about 5 a.m.
“You can see the chew marks from the gopher right here on the cable’s casing,” said Don Dudney, foreman for Kootenai Electric Cooperative.
“It looks like he kept on chewing until he hit the metal cable, then the lights went out.”
At Kootenai Electric, they call it “the great chew-in.”
Power was restored at 11 a.m. Crews had to hunt for the chunk of cable that became a snack, then they had to dig it up. After repairing it, they had to bury it again.
This gopher turned out to be quite the grounded gremlin. But it really didn’t surprise Dudney. “Their sharp little teeth will eat right through it,” he said.
Folks in Bayview had no idea Mother Nature had sicced a conductive critter on them.
“A gopher!?” exclaimed resident Chuck Miller. “We called very early in the morning, at 6, and then we called again.”
The person Miller talked to simply told him the power was out due to some kind of underground problem.
He replied, “What the hell is underground this time of year?”
But ah, yes: Gophers, it seems, are the scourge of the power industry.
Catherine Parochetti, a Kootenai Electric Cooperative spokeswoman, said that oft-yearned-for underground cables do have their own shortcomings - often furry. “It’s not a completely fail-safe system either.”
A mystery remains, though: No smoldering pelt was left behind. Could this critter be a new D.B. Cooper?
“It’s not likely he survived. You can definitely, unfortunately…” Parochetti stammered, “there’s just no way… he’d be history.”
Maybe. But a veterinarian at Prairie Animal Hospital has doubts. Maybe the gopher didn’t chew all the way through, and the cable deteriorated later.
“You’d find some signs of it, even if fried,” said the vet, who didn’t want her name used. “Bones or something.”