Heavy rains put campus in the dark

KATIE GOODRICH
STAFF REPORTER

Halloween night was especially spooky this year with power outages in four buildings on campus.
Irwin Library, Jordan Hall, part of Lilly Hall and Residential College lost power around 7:30 p.m, said Rich Michal, executive director of facilities. Students in ResCo were evacuated Thursday night because of safety concerns.
Michal said one of the cables that powers Jordan Hall shorted and tripped a circuit, causing the blackout. While the facilities department knows the short caused the outage, Michal said they do not know what caused the short.
“We think some of the insulation was worn from possible age, rodents, or vibrations or even a combination of those things,” Michal said. “That left the conductor exposed, and the heavy rain we got last week may have contributed to the short in that line.”
The priority was to restore power to campus, especially ResCo, Michal said.
“It took us a while to go to all those buildings to assess their condition and make sure there weren’t any fires or other damages,” Michal said. “We isolated the cable that we needed so we could restore everything but Jordan Hall, because that’s the cable that was shorted. It took us all night.”
Michal said ResCo has back-up lights for safety and fire egress, but they are battery operated and only last for 90 minutes. The Facilities department knew the outage was going to last longer than the back-up lights, which prompted the evacuation of ResCo at approximately 10:30, Michal said.
Levester Johnson, vice president for student affairs, said students needed to be somewhere safer during the power outage.
“People were starting to do makeshift things like lighting candles,” Johnson said. “That can be scary if you don’t have an alarm system. We knew that we needed to get them sheltered into a safer place.”
Students living in ResCo were told to go to Atherton Union, where they would stay until power was restored. Sophomore roommates Julia Williams and Taylor Royalty went to Starbucks after Williams head people in the hall saying that they were evacuating.
“I had, like, two minutes to grab my stuff,” Williams said. “They said it could be anywhere from five minutes to three hours, so I didn’t bring a lot of stuff or make plans to find somewhere to sleep.”
The pair met their suitemates in C-Club after Starbucks closed.
“Then we staked out our spots for the night in the comfy chairs,” Royalty said. “We never knew when we were going to get back in. I didn’t think it was going to last all night.”
The overall emotion of the night wasn’t fear or annoyance, but confusion.
“We would get information from Twitter saying you’ll be out by the end of the night, and then it might be tomorrow, and five minutes to three hours,” Williams said. “It ended up being five hours from after I was told that. There was lots of uncertainty.”
Royalty and Williams agree Butler handled the situation well.
“They were very cool about it all,” Royalty said.
Williams said she felt fairly taken care of given the situation.
“LJ was in (Atherton Union) the whole time,” Williams said. “There were people there helping us out, and they got us some really good pizza.”
Johnson said he tried to make the experience as fun and social as possible.
“We brought food out, and then I had the bright idea to order some pizza,” Johnson said. “We tried to keep things light for students as we thought it was only going to be a couple of hours.”
As the night went on Williams said she began to grow impatient.
“At first, it was, ‘Oh, this is a spooky coincidence,’” Williams said. “It’s Halloween. Then five hours later, it’s like ‘Alright, let’s get on with things.’”
Johnson said faculty and staff soon realized that the situation was growing more serious.
“We literally went on a late night Meijer’s run and cleaned them out of pillows and blankets,” Johnson said.
Johnson commends students for their attitude during the affair.
“The only thing they were concerned about, and rightfully so, was about classes the next day,” Johnson said. “We assured them that we had made arrangements that the faculty and staff were going to be sensitive to their needs.”
Williams and Royalty said they got back to their room at 3:45 a.m.
Michal said power was restored to all buildings with outages, excluding Jordan Hall, around 4:30 a.m.
Students were greeted with news that all Friday classes in Jordan Hall were cancelled on the next day. Johnson said it was a decision that had to be made.
“We thought it was the middle section of Jordan Hall that wasn’t going to have power,” Johnson said. “That creeped into the east end of Jordan Hall and then the majority of Jordan Hall. We had to make the call to say no classes on Friday.”
The power outages continued throughout the weekend in order to repair the damaged cable, Michal said.
Since the cables for each building run together in sections of the electrical system, the scheduled power outages affected Hinkle Fieldhouse, the Health and Recreation Complex, part of Lilly Hall, Clowes Memorial Hall, Schrott Center and Schwitzer Hall, Michal said.
The crew of eight to 10 people needed eight hours to repair the damages, but campus events forced the repairs to be done at two separate times.
The crew consisted of employees from Butler’s Facilities department and Barth Electric, a contractor that works with the university on high voltage work.
When facilities went to restore power on Sunday morning in Jordan Hall, there was another short, Michal said.
“We’ve got Jordan Hall up and running on a generator, which we had just in case,” Michal said.
“We’ll have to schedule another time over the next few weeks or over Thanksgiving break to replace the rest of the cable.”
Michal said Facilities works to prepare for and prevent instances like the power outage.
“This is one of those unforeseen things that happens due to weather and the challenges of the infrastructure in aging facilities,” Michal said. “We are doing our best to fix it. We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding and feedback.”

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