By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer
A squirrel was the culprit behind a power outage that cleared out Sharon Regional Health System’s Cancer Care Center at 2320 Highland Road in Hermitage on Wednesday morning.
The power outage happened at 10:13 a.m. When the backup generator kicked on and smoke started snaking its way from the west side of the building through the halls of the health center, staff immediately evacuated.
“They cleared the building as a safety precaution, once we smelled the odor,” said Ed Newmeyer, Sharon Regional spokesman.
According to Newmeyer, radiation therapy patients were the most affected group and some patients had to be rescheduled.
“Our staff absolutely did the right thing,” Newmeyer said. “They put the patients’ safety ahead of everything.”
Hermitage fire department arrived and found smoke coming from a transformer in the back of the building and vented the place.
Penn Power had the electricity restored at 11:50 a.m., Chuck Jackson, Mercer County area manager, said.
“The squirrel climbed between the primary wire and the transformer box between North Buhl Farm Drive and Vallabh Drive,” Jackson said. “The name of the area over there is Oak Haven Court.”
The power surge caused the transformer to blow and affected six other Penn Power customers in the area, all medical offices.
Jackson said the power company made temporary repairs and will replace the box on the pole at a more convenient time for the Cancer Care Center and nearby medical offices.
Penn Power will add animal guards, which help prevent squirrels or birds from getting across the wires and tripping a transformer.