You may be shocked (pun intended) to learn how often iguanas cause power outages in Lake Worth Beach
Updated: Dec 10, 2022
IGUANAS ARE DESTRUCTIVE critters, known for eating our favorite flowers, defecating at will around swimming pools and digging burrows that cause the collapse of seawalls, sidewalks and canal banks.
Now they’re messing with the power grid???
There were lots of laughs on social media when the city of Lake Worth Beach reported that an iguana caused a power outage affecting 1,431 customers for 35 minutes on Dec. 7.
More shocking (pun intended) was this revelation: It was just the latest of 63 instances of the invasive leaping lizards cutting electricity in Lake Worth Beach over the past few years.
“There have been 15 outages from lizards this year, which is down from 20 last year and 28 the year before,’’ city spokesman Ben Kerr said in an email, adding that the majority were minor interruptions.
The city’s electric utility department has been launching “mitigation efforts” that have caused the number of iguana-caused interruptions across town to decrease, he said. But he knows there is no guarantee the pesky lizards won't cut power again,
“We’ve resorted to wrapping poles with plastic sleeves to prevent them from climbing on our equipment, added plastic animal guards on likely points of contact, have been clearing and trimming brush in known habitats adjacent to our facilities, and trimming trees to keep them away from our poles and wires,’’ he said.
On Dec. 7, an iguana climbed onto a transformer at the utility’s Sixth Avenue Substation. The lizard, estimated at more than 2 feet in length, “made contact with energized components, leading to its electrocution and an outage,’’ Kerr said.
“Unfortunately this species seems to be growing in numbers and are prone to climbing poles and structures where they come into contact with energized components,’’ he said.
Many South Florida municipalities, including Ocean Ridge and Briny Breezes, in recent years have contracted with iguana hunters to eradicate the lizards and prevent them from damaging public sidewalks, seawalls and property.
The Lake Worth Beach electric utility’s iguana mitigation efforts include “installing walls to make it harder for climbing wildlife to enter our facilities’’ as part of a System Hardening and Reliability Improvement Program, Kerr said.
“Although you can't completely iguana-proof a system, active controls like those we have put in place do make a difference. We continue to address the issue using best practices as discovered by us and other industry partners.’’
If iguanas are cutting off power in Lake Worth Beach, they must be wreaking the same havoc with other power grids around Florida, right?
But what, if anything, other utilities are doing to combat iguanas isn’t known.
Joshua Smith of Nexus Nuisance Animal Services, trapped this 6-foot-long iguana west of Lake Worth Beach in May (Photos by Joe Capozzi)
Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest provider of electricity, wasn't able to answer questions I sent today about how often iguanas cut off power to their customers.
“FPL files outage information each year with the Florida Public Service Commission, but I’m not sure how granular the data is for animals interfering with our equipment,’’ spokesman Chris McGrath said.
Kerr said he’s pretty sure that all Florida utilities are battling with the same issues regarding the iguanas.
In 2019, Keys Energy Services spent $91,000 to iguana-proof its system.
“There is no magic fix to stop them getting where they shouldn't and so this sort of thing happens,’’ he said. “Most of the time though you don't hear about it, as the outage tends to be short and quickly resolved and often isn't worth mentioning the reason.’’
One iguana trapper said he’s confident Lake Worth Beach electric customers aren't the only ones in Florida being affected by the lizards.
“It seems to be a new problem that iguanas are causing,’’ said Joshua Smith of Nexus Nuisance Animal Services, adding that other animals like squirrels, raccoons and birds have been blamed for cutting off power across the Sunshine State.
When Smith learned an iguana cut off power in Lake Worth Beach on Dec. 7, he said, “I kind of laughed at it: ‘Here we go again.’’’
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About the author
Joe Capozzi is an award-winning reporter based in Lake Worth Beach. He spent more than 30 years writing for newspapers, mostly at The Palm Beach Post, where he wrote about the opioid scourge, invasive pythons, the birth of the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and Palm Beach County government. For 15 years, he covered the Miami Marlins baseball team. Joe left The Post in December 2020. View all posts by Joe Capozzi.