Unitil: Hawk to Blame for Capital Region Outages

Dec 5, 2015

About 13,300 Unitil customers in the Capital area lost electricity Saturday morning after a hawk interfered with a power line near one of the company’s substations in Concord.

The outage — which affected residents in Concord, Bow, Boscawen, Canterbury and several other nearby communities — started around 8:20 a.m., according to Unitil spokesman Alec O’Meara. By 10:45 a.m., the company reported that the issues had been resolved.

The breadth of the outage had less to do with the bird itself and more to do with the location of the damage, O’Meara said. If you think of electrical infrastructure as a kind of tree — where you have the main transmission lines at the “trunk” and the subtransmission lines that extend out into surrounding communities like “branches” — this particular outage hit closer to the tree trunk, O’Meara explained.

“If you have a fault on a line like that, it’s going to affect a much larger number of customers than if it occurred on a smaller line in a neighborhood, where you might only have a few hundred or dozen,” O’Meara said.

Animal-related outages — whether by bird, squirrel or some other creature — are not uncommon, O’Meara said. Utilities use animal guards to try to prevent such issues, but those measures aren’t always foolproof.

“Anyone with a bird feeder knows that if a squirrel wants to get the bird feeder, it’s going to find a way,” O’Meara said. “You do what you can to take preventative measures, but animals are animals.”

Unitil outages can be reported and tracked on the utility's website.