Tampa, Florida -- If Tampa's water woes over the weekend left you jonesing for your morning cup of coffee,or left your business high and dry -- you can blame a squirrel.

Yes, officials confirmed Monday that a squirrel brought the city's water system to its knees.

Tests show the water was never contaminated, but still a half a million customers were told to boil their water as a precaution.

A tremendous problem, started by something relatively small.

How could that be allowed to happen?

"It really is an act of God," said Tampa's Water Department Director Brad Baird.

Actually, what Baird calls an "act of God" was in fact something considerably smaller and furrier.

"A squirrel crawled into the standpipe you see next to the pole," Baird said, pointing at the main line that feeds power to the plant.

Asquirrel. Zapped and charred when it tried to chew its way out of standpipe that happened to cover the electric lines that power Tampa's water plant.

"I did not see it, but my operators saw what was left of it," said Baird.

Whenpower linenumber one went down, a back-up line should have kicked in, but problem number two emerged.

A sagging wire, officials say, came too close to another, sending a 26,000-volt surge into the system.

It was that arcing of electricity, along the second set of wires, that created the third problem.

The surge blew out the water plant's main switch, which is designed to handle lightning strikes, but could not handle this.

It knocked the pumps off linefor 31 minutes until diesel generators got it going again.

The loss of power and possible back wash of bacteria prompted a precautionary boil water notice that deprived some grumpy grinders like Jeff Parker of their morning Joe.

"Yeah, it makes you wonder did no one think that through at some point?" asked Parker.

And it cost more than a few businesses a day's income including Starbucks, PF Chang's andMaggiano's Italian at Westshore Shopping Plaza.

"As a customer for the City of Tampa if we had a big loss it would be great to see them compensate it," said Rani Chehal, who owns Felicitous Coffee House near USF.

"We have gotten quite a few calls about recouping damages so we're gathering that information and will forward that to our risk management department," said Baird.

But since the water woes were an act of God -- or in this case, one of God's creatures -- the City's liability may be limited.

In the meantime, the squirrel's standpipe has been sealed. The once sagging power lines have been pulled tighter, and they're working fast to replace the burned out switch.

Three layers of redundancy, ruined by a single rodent.

"We will be having those conversations with TECO on how to makeany improvements that can be made," said Baird.

While no one wants to point fingers of blame,a source tells 10 News Tampa Water officials brought thesagging wire to TECO's attention several months ago, but only now was it finally addressed.

Still, they credit the power company with reacting very quickly, and as a result are not expecting any regulatory fines to come from the incident.

Follow 10 News Reporter Eric Glasser on twitter @ericglassertv

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