Weekend power outage disrupts musical, leaves campus in the dark

All buildings now have full electricity after a power outage at Butler University Saturday left students in the dark and employees working overtime.

Butler staff shut off power across campus after lightning struck near or on the power plant located behind Schwitzer Hall said Ben Hunter, Chief of Staff and Executive Director of Public Safety.

Hunter said that electricity problems have occurred before but they “haven’t been as catastrophic as this.”

A 2009 storm caused a campus-wide power outage for 24 hours, said Gerald Carlson, director of maintenance services.

He said that Saturday’s storm and power outage could cost—at a guess—between $25,000 and $30,000.

These costs would take into account the generators, the new wiring and overtime compensation.

Carlson said an underground wire shorted and was burnt through, which caused the smoke. The decision was then made to shut off the switchgear that controls campus power.

“We could not risk losing that switchgear,” Carlson said. “We had to shut it down.”

The main switchgear controls electricity for buildings across campus and is comprised of nine switches that distribute power. Carlson said that the $600,000 switchgear was installed last summer and that it would have taken three months to replace it if it had been destroyed.

The burnt cable belongs to switch five, which controls power for Lilly Hall, Irwin Library, Residential College and the east and middle parts of Jordan Hall.

A generator was brought in to power Residential College while employees from Butler and Barth Electric made repairs, Carlson said.

He said Atherton’s wiring goes through the same switch, so power was shut down, while a second generator provided power to keep food services running.

“Our goal was to make sure power was back on so we didn’t disrupt classes two weeks before finals,” Carlson said.

Though power was up in time for classes, Saturday proved a difficult time for some Butler students.

Brandon Douthitt, a freshman music major, was practicing saxophone in Lilly Hall when the lights went out.

“I looked outside, and it was pitch black,” he said.

ResCo’s power returned just before midnight Saturday, but Douthitt said he was concerned the power in his residence hall could have been out until Monday. Jordan, Lilly and Irwin regained power at around 7 p.m. Sunday.

Alyssa Setnar, a freshman motorsports engineering and physics major, was getting ready for the Kappa Alpha Theta formal when the power went out.

“I was about to dry my hair when the power went out,” Setnar said. “I realized that I had dinner in an hour and my hair was wet.”

After walking to the Kappa Alpha Theta house to dry her hair, Setnar said she was left out in the rain because Schwitzer’s ID scanners were shut off due to the power outage.

“It’s unfortunate that it happened on the same night as formal, but it’s not their fault that it happened,” she said.

In addition, the power went out during the Saturday matinee of “Les Misérables” at Clowes Memorial Hall.

“I feel sorry for all the patrons that bought tickets,” Carlson said, “but they can work with Clowes to see about refunds.”

Students received alerts and updates about the power outage via DawgAlert and Twitter.

Douthitt said the situation was “handled well.”

Carlson credits staff, some of whom worked until 3 a.m. Sunday, for getting the power up as quickly as possible.

“We’ve got great employees who came up with a game plan to get it operational so that it didn’t affect classes and students,” Carlson said. “Two of them had about two hours of sleep between Saturday and Sunday.”


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