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A Shocking Coon Story

No, not that kind of coon. Not my normal kind of shocking either.

A lone Toronto raccoon was able to cut power to nearly 7,000 people in the city’s downtown core on Thursday night, highlighting the fraught coexistence between residents of Canada’s largest urban centre and the divisive “trash pandas”.

Hydro One, Ontario’s power utility, said a raccoon “made contact with equipment” at a downtown station on Thursday night, plunging swaths of the city in darkness. The loss of power also temporarily disrupted service on a key subway line and shut off water. Toronto’s fire service said the power outage also left residents trapped inside elevators.

The outage started at about 7.40pm but was fully resolved three hours later, according to outage maps.

The culprit, whose fate remains unknown, will inevitably join the growing pantheon of famed Toronto raccoons: the doughnut thiefthe freeloading subway rider, the baseball fan, the airport traveller and the financier.

The fate of the aforementioned trash panda was revealed and it was not favorable for said trash panda.

Artist rendition, not to scale

It got me thinking. A lone raccoon just looking for a treat or somewhere to sleep, makes contact in an electrical substation and shuts down the power and caused minor chaos in one part of a city of millions of people for three hours.

This highlights how vulnerable our infrastructure really is. We take for granted that the lights come on when we flip a switch but a lot has to be working right behind the scenes for that to happen. When the juice stops flowing, stuff stops working like lights but also water, heat, elevators, stop lights, etc.

On the other hand, it also shows that it doesn’t take much to disrupt that infrastructure and electricity seems particularly vulnerable. There were a number of targeted attacks over the last couple of years by goofballs but some seemed fairly successful and I believe no one was caught. Everything working as it is supposed to, from the electric grid to the food stamps system, helps keep the lid on the savages and if those stop working…

Of course I am not recommending anything here, I am simply providing this story for entertainment purposes….file it away in the “things to ponder” section of your brain.


  1. Pat H. Bowman

    Remember the Metcalf attacks? To this day, Bracken holds that was a proof of concept test. A couple guys with deer rifles could take out power for a city. Three or four dozen teams of guys in a coordinated attack could take out the power grid. There are at least 22 million military-aged male invaders in our country right now. Prepare accordingly.

    • pyrrhus

      It wouldn’t take that many…just destroy a few of the largest transformers and a few major transmission lines…The grid would be down for weeks, maybe much longer…

      • Lineman

        They had a report out in the early 2000s that I think said 9 sub/receiving stations and 1 or 2 grid ties and the whole country goes dark…

  2. TakeAHardLook

    Some years ago a virtually unguarded power substation in CA (mainly a transformer) was shot out with small rifle fire and destroyed. At the time, experts posited that if eight other transformers in that grid were to be targeted, the entire PNW grid would have failed.

    We will be there soon. FedGov is too busy waving rainbow flags than hardening our infrastructure.

    • Berglander

      Apparently DHS has put out a new directive that all substations have to be locked at all times. So, we lock ourselves in the subs while we work in them.
      Maybe it’s just me…but if I wanted to mess up a sub, I wouldn’t bother going inside. Do it remotely, lol.

      • Lineman

        Yea they have to feel like they are doing something, so they do the thing that makes it harder on us and doesn’t do anything to deter those who would destroy it…

  3. Warren Shafer

    I and a friend were recently out of the Marines. We moved back to our home town in Indiana. We started noticing during the Soviet-Afgan war, that the Mujahideen would blow power lines leading into Kabal, causing some havoc. We felt that our infrastructure was as vulnerable. My friend had some contacts in civil defense at time. We wanted promote the idea to better protect it.
    We wrote up an Op plan, detailing how a group of determined groups could cripple the infrastructure.
    We were prepared to conduct an operation to prove it. Two teams, 3-6 men would conduct the op. One was a diversion, the other would attack the main objective. Both teams would create havoc, the main team would create the most damage. We would operate at night. Of course no real damage was done, just to prove a point.
    Are plan was of course turned down. My friends contact in civil defense confided to him, that they did not want shown up, prove that the powers that be were incompetent. He said our Viet Cong like tactics had merits.

  4. Don W Curton

    I’ve also heard that some of the bigger pieces of electrical equipment (transformers?) are no longer produced in the USA, we have very few spares, and lead time to have any built (overseas by a potential enemy) is anywhere from 12 to 24 months. I’m working some projects now where 24 months is optimistic and it won’t be to the same quality level as 50 year old American made equipment. We’ve off-shored too much of our manufacturing base.

    that said, our system is actually fairly resilient in that most typical outages are resolved within hours to days. A major hurricane causing major damage may move that needle out to months at most, but usually just a few weeks based on my 60 years of living on the Gulf Coast. We are well equipped to handle most vermin and weather-related events, even accounting for the fact that capacity hasn’t kept up with demand. However, human caused events would be a whole other story. We have very few spares for any of the major hubs and probably zero security beyond a chainlink fence and signage. This has been known since I first read about it back in the Reagan era.

    • Big Country Expat

      Absolutely… few years back I was with the Security Company (what a joke that was) that pulled security for TECO (Tampa Electric Company)… there were, no shit, count ’em -6- of the BIG Transformers on hand. And that was BEFORE some of the major hurricanes ripped thru here and up North… last I heard, they had two left, as they used them locally or shipped them up North (‘cos they didn’t have ANY on hand) and have 4 or 6 on back order…. Takes 2-3 YEARS to build and ship ’em.

      • Steve

        Yep. I drive past our local power company’s materials a lot. A little over 10 acres, and just 5-6 years ago, it was packed to the gills, acre upon acre of transformers and all other kinds of equipment. Went by it the other day, and there are about a dozen poles, a half-dozen spools of wire, and what looks like some huge transfer switch. Not a single transformer of any size.

      • Berglander

        RMP has a yard dedicated to refurbing old transformers, switchgear, circuit breakers, transrupters, you name it.
        It’s a kinda-cool boneyard

  5. Bean Dip Tray

    I feed one supper scraps and it doesn’t have a tantrum but does get my attention if there isn’t anything out.
    The tens of thousands of replacements with two lane roads takes a toll on the critters.
    The EMP or CME will be a great equalizer and some snowflakes will self-delete for the good of the gene pool without muh sailfawn or VR goggles to escape reality.
    These things happen in the Long March of internal quisling traitors.

  6. Dr. Hollowpoint

    It’s quite easy to map out all cell towers in your AO. Security is usually nothing more than chain-link fence, and power backup is simply a diesel generator. If that generator somehow has no coolant and the power grid fails . . .

  7. Jeffrey Zoar

    MAD is the only defense against this. The “bad guys” don’t want to live in a world without power anymore than we do. Similarly, think of how economically hard hit Russia or China would be if the AINO economy disappeared, as it would in the event of a catastrophic outage of the power grid. So they don’t want to cause it to happen either.

    Actually, Russia has less incentive to care about this than they used to. Brilliant, those sanctions. Although China should still care.

    • Lineman

      What about those countries that don’t give a shit about what happens to America or themselves that have been streaming across the border…

      • Jeffrey Zoar

        I didn’t say it was a good defense, I said it was the only defense. But your average illegal alien wants electrical power too, I would guess. You would think. I hope.

    • Max Wiley

      Chine is rapidly decoupling from the US and EU. Multinational companies are leaving China in droves, providing the pin to finally pop the Chinese real estate bubble.
      And their leadership doesn’t seem to care, even though financial pain on this level is already causing some minor social unrest. I find it all to be ominous.

  8. Gryphon

    Two Years ago in my AO, we had the same thing happen, the Trash Panda got into a Shed with some Control Gear for a Substation. Got Across some Wires that run the Main Breakers, just 208 Volts, but that Short Circuit made all of them in the Substation open up. Outage lasted only a couple of Hours, since there wasn’t Damage to stuff that would take a while to Replace.

    It shows another Vulnerability to Sabotage, and much Safer, because you wouldn’t be Fooling With the high-KV Lines. I know some of the Line Electricians in our local Co-Op, and they Admit that the entire System is ridiculously vulnerable to disruption.

  9. MN Steel

    When I lived in the Copper Country beavers took put the lone fiber-optic line for all internet, 911 and telephones a couple of times.

    For a couple of days.

    Good thing nobody knows that those lines are marked with white poles with orange cap, and access to backhoes is tightly controlled.

  10. -rightwingterrorist

    I work at many power plants. Gas, lignite, combined cycle.
    It’s scarier than you could ever imagine.


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