September 15, 2008

Collegetown Goes Dark

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Last night’s Collegetown blackout — for once — did not involve alcohol. Rather, it entailed vicious winds, exposed electrical wires, fire trucks, policemen and streets filled with sleepy, pajama-clad students looking for answers.
Winds — estimated at 20 to 30 miles per hour — blew through Ithaca last night, taking down power lines across the city. A transformer outside 409 Dryden Rd. exploded, lighting the sky green. Lines draped downward, threatening to set trees ablaze. Firefighters stood by, keeping careful watch. The transformer continued sparking late into the night, threatening to ignite pieces of the tree entangled with the power lines.[img_assist|nid=31718|title=Blackout|desc=Collegetown goes dark early Monday morning.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Much of Buffalo Street, Eddy Street, College Avenue, Stewart Avenue, and Linden Avenue were completely dark.
Ithaca Fire Lieutenant David Burbank explained that Dryden Avenue above College Avenue had been closed down because power lines were slowly burning through the protective wire, which left a strong danger of fire.
Clumps of students milled around talking. Some had headlamps, some had flashlights — most everyone had pastries.
“This is the first time we’ve ever all hung out together,” one student said, laughing, surrounded by his housemates.
With the refrigeration gone, Collegetown Bagels gave away the rest of its pastries for free. Students flowed from the eatery with bundles of scones, muffins and cookies.
“We thought all of Collegetown was going to be out, so we were going to go creeping,” said a student holding a headlamp.
According to the Ithaca Fire Department, every truck was out on duty. Trucks from neighboring towns — Enfield, Elmira, Lansing, Trumansburg and Dryden — were on call as well, ready to assist the Ithaca area as needed.
The constant ring of numerous fire detectors could be heard above and below College Avenue, accompanied by the occasional deployment of helmeted and flashlight-equipped firemen. The power flickering on and off was triggering the alarms.
“Our neighbor’s fire alarm went off and we tried to ask the firemen what was going on, but they left before we got chance,” said one student on Buffalo Street.
“Luckily it wasn’t earlier in the night,” said Casey Feehan ’09. “Most people were already sleeping.”
According to Ithaca Police Officer Jason Lansing, there is no word as to when power will be back on. He said that the electric company needed to be called in to fix the problem before power returned. NYSEG, the company that provides power for the Ithaca area could not be reached for comment.
“There’s a lot of work when the power lines go down. It could be minutes, it could be hours,” Lansing said.
A common refrain heard from students ambling about the blackened streets was an increased fear of crime.
Multiple students could be overheard calling roommates and housemates, checking to make sure doors were securely locked and windows were closed. Students seemed to be assuming that the sudden darkness would prove too tempting for some of Collegetown’s potential criminals.
First responders on the scene seemed to be concentrating on general safety issues, including traffic control and any other emergencies that might arise as a result of the power crisis.