Cassandra Lawson was watching TV on quiet Bristol Street at 10:12 a.m. Monday when she heard a “boom,” then a “pow.” Everything electrical went suddenly dark in her house.
“I went outside. I thought it was my apartment. It was everybody,” she said.
Seven or eight houses in all lost electricity for about two hours on her single block of modest homes between Ashmun and Goffe.
The Edith Johnson Towers, a complex for seniors, which is on Bristol east of Lawson’s house, did not have a disruption of power.
The culprit was a squirrel. The squirrel had not bitten through wire. Rather, it had tripped the transformer high up on the pole in front of Lawson’s residence at 85 Bristol.
The critter lay dead a few inches from the curb with blood oozing from its nose and a very frizzied tail.
Lawson, who used to work in advertising for the New Haven Register, had a malfunctioning cell phone. Her neighbor made an immediate call to United Illuminated.
Lawson said she was concerned the problem be fixed before her 5-year-old son, who suffers from asthma, returned home from his classes at the King/Robinson School.
“I don’t want him to have an attack [at home] and the nebulizer not work,” she said. Lawson’s son’s nebuilizer is powered by electricity.
About an hour had passed. Still no U.I.
Lawson borrowed another friend’s cell phone and called again. At 12:12 p.m. she called Cordelia Thorpe, a neighborhood activist on Bristol Street who perenially runs for the aldermanic seat in Ward 22. (She rea href=“http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/three_vie_for_ward_22_seat/”>lost to incumbent Jeanette Morrison in a three-way contest iin last week’s Democratic primary.)
Thorpe said neighbors call her in situations such as the squirrel-caused outage. She surveyed the street and called U.I. at 12:25 and again at 12:53. She told them the street has many elderly and also people like Lawson’s son with electricity-dependent medical devices.
The yellow U.I. repair pulled up at about 1:15.
The vehicle parallel parked beside the pole and the squirrel.
The technician, who said work protocols prevent him from being photographed or talking to reporters, promptly raised himself in his bucket and repaired the fuse. The whole procedure took about ten minutes.
Thorpe went inside Barbara Watley’s house at 72 Bristol, checked the devices, came out, and told her all her lights were back on.
The technician did say that squirrels are the bane of all utilities. This season, with not too many acorns, has been a relatively easy one squirrel-wise, with only three or four squirrel calls a week, he estimated.
He said all utilities spend millions to deter such incidents. The squirrels are prevailing, he said, although this one paid the price.
Thorpe, who has previously lit a fire under the authorities for bedbug issues at Edith Johnson Towers, said “this is the first squirrel problem” that she’s had to deal with. She praised the repair job but said the utility should have arrived sooner.
“Thank you for turning the lights back on,” Lawson called to the tech as he lumbered away in his bright yellow vehicleyou for turning the lights back on.”