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Power outage darkens campus

| Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A power outage across campus left several dorms and classrooms in the dark Wednesday morning, but campus officials have not yet determined the cause, according to an email from Paul Kempf, director of utilities and maintenance.

The email was sent to building managers and rectors Wednesday afternoon.

“While performing a minor maintenance activity this morning at our electrical substation an unexpected and currently unexplained anomaly resulted in the loss of our interconnect with the grid,” Kempf said in the email. “The result of this loss required the shedding of electrical loads affecting a portion of campus. Our systems are currently stable, but the cause of the issue still remains unexplained.”

University spokesman Dennis Brown said only parts of campus were affected by the power outage, which began just before 9:30 a.m.

“About 50 percent of the campus was without power for 10 minutes,” Brown said.

Workers were scheduled to investigate the cause of the outage by testing the electrical system after 9 p.m. Wednesday, which would cause “some risk of a repeat occurrence,” Kempf said in the email. He told The Observer on Wednesday night another outage was not expected.

“The problem we had this morning isn’t totally explained yet,” Kempf said. “… We’re trying to avoid the disruption to classes, and this evening is when we’re trying to work on it.”

Breen-Phillips, Farley, Zahm, Cavanaugh, Alumni, Pangborn, Dillon, Lyons, Carroll, Duncan, Welsh Family, McGlinn and O’Neill were reportedly among the affected dorms, according to hall residents.

The outage went unnoticed by some West Quad residents because of backup generators kicking in, according to students.

“We had backup generators so it was pretty hard to notice,” junior Thom Behrens, a Duncan Hall resident, said. Junior Kyle McCaffery said generators also supplied electricity to O’Neill Hall during the outage.

The Hayes-Healy Center and O’Shaughnessy, Galvin, and Geddes Halls lost power, according to students present in the buildings during the outage. DeBartolo Hall was not affected.

Brown said Main Building and the Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center also lost power.

Rectors cautioned their residents to take precautions throughout Wednesday night’s testing period.

“As tests are conducted this evening, the campus may experience rolling power outages after 9 p.m.,” Morrissey rector Ronald Vierling said in an email sent to the hall.

In the event of a second outage, “your ID [cards] will not be able to swipe you into any building,” Elaine DeBassige, Farley Hall rector, said in an email to residents.

Kempf advised students to limit their use of electronics Wednesday night.

“If you’re doing something and you don’t necessarily need to have it on after nine o’clock, you can turn it off,” he said.

Brown said the outage was not related to the Aug. 20 partial collapse of a cooling cell in the University’s steam generation system, which provides cool water and air conditioning to campus.

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About Lesley Stevenson

Lesley Stevenson is a senior news writer for The Observer after previously serving as News Editor and an Assistant Managing Editor. She is a senior from Memphis, Tennessee, studying Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) and American Studies and living in Breen-Phillips Hall. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @lcstevenson, and visit her website at lcstevenson.wordpress.com

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