Lights out

Meranda Watling

Power outage due to kinks in old system

Hiccups in the older part of the campus electrical system are believed to have caused yesterday’s power outage, university spokesman Scott Rainone said.

The power outage, which affected the entire campus, began about 9:50 a.m. and lasted, in some buildings, until shortly after 10:30 a.m. Buildings were brought back up on a rolling basis.

Michael McDonald, director of Campus Environment and Operations, said about 75 percent of the campus had power within 20 minutes of the outage, but some buildings were delayed because there were electrical engineers working in tunnels, and Campus Environment and Operations wanted to make sure the engineers were safe.

Campus Environment and Operations “suspect it was caused by an older cable in the older part of the electrical system,” Rainone said. “The university safety system shuts down the main electrical transformers when there’s an imbalance in the system that might harm the equipment.”

McDonald said there was “no smoking gun” as to the particular part that caused the outage, but said it was similar to the outage that happened last semester.

“Over the last six years, we’ve been replacing the electrical infrastructure, which was about 80 years old,” McDonald said. “This is something that used to happen more often. The last bit of the system hasn’t been changed. Once it’s all upgraded, this won’t be a problem.”

The power caused some classes to be canceled and other inconveniences, but McDonald said he hadn’t heard of any damages caused by the outage.

When the power went down, people were stuck in elevators in both White Hall and the library, said Sue Eikelberry, senior secretary for Campus Environment and Operations.

“My sources tell me they were rescued,” Eikelberry said. “They couldn’t have been in there but 10 or 15 minutes tops.”

The power in White Hall came back on after about 10 minutes, and the elevator started working before help arrived.

In the library, which had people trapped in two elevator cars, the maintenance person was able to use back-up generators to bring down each car. Everyone was out within five minutes.

Students in Centennial Court, which uses electronic swipe card keys, had trouble getting into their dorms when the power was out.

Gerald Thomas, telephone communications technician with Residence Services, said the problem shouldn’t have existed because there should be a battery back-up system in place like those in Korb Hall and Eastway. He said the fire marshal approached him about the problem.

“It’s something we’re going to be looking into,” Thomas said. “We have back-ups in other buildings, why not Centennial Court?”

Academics reporter Rachel Abbey and administration reporter Ryan Loew contributed to this story.

Contact technology reporter Meranda Watling at [email protected].