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Accidents and Crashes

AM power outage causes downtown Bend businesses trouble; squirrel to blame

(Update: Power restored; Adding video, comment from coffee shop)

"Everything just went dark," Coffee shop assistant manager said.

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Tuesday got off to a rough start for many downtown Bend businesses.

A damaged power line knocked out electricity around 8:20 a.m. to more than 1,400 Pacific Power customers in the area.

Before that, the morning was just like any other for Abigail Coes.

"Came in at 7 o'clock, getting ready to open at 7:30. Everything was fine,” the assistant manager of Bellatazza Caffé told NewsChannel 21.

But just an hour later, she said, things changed.

"Everything just went dark," Coes recalled.

Brenda Abbott works next door to the Mirror Pond substation downtown.

"We heard a loud bang behind us, with a flash of light," Abbot said.

All you'd have to do to know that the power wasn't on in downtown Bend Tuesday morning was take a look at the traffic lights. You'd see that they weren't working, and nobody seemed to know what to do at the intersections.

The culprit? Pacific Power spokesman Tom Gauntt said a squirrel damaged the power line, which blew a fuse at the power station. He confirmed the squirrel did not survive the encounter.

For Bellatazza, that meant “nothing” worked.

“Probably can't even open the door to the bathroom, because it's electronic," Coes said.

No power also meant no hot coffee.

"We can do cold brew," Coes told a customer trying to order.

"Can you make a blended drink?" the customer replied.

"No," Coes answered before he decided to order a cold brew.

There was no hot food either.

"The grill is not even hot enough for me to feel like it's hot any more, you know?" Coes said.

And the cash register only partially worked.

"We are 'exact change only,'” she told the customer.

But the power outage didn't stop all of their customers.

"COVID has been hard on us, but a power outage isn't going to kick us in,” Coes said. “It's not going to be the final blow, you know?”

It's not the first such animal-related power outage in downtown Bend.

Back in 2014, a squirrel met its untimely demise at the substation near Mirror Pond, knocking out power for nearly two hours and causing a half-day delay in the initial Luke Wirkkala murder trial.

Four years later, in June 2018, a bird flew into the same substation and sparked a 2 1/2-hour outage that affected more than 5,200 customers downtown and on the city's Westside.

Central Oregon / News
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Jack Hirsh

Jack Hirsh is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jack here.

Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.

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