October 21, 2013

Sunday’s Power Outage Possibly Caused by Animal Entering Equipment, Official Says

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A power outage that might have been caused by an animal affected many parts of campus on Sunday night, disrupting students who were studying on Central Campus, according to John Carberry, director of press relations for the University.

Facilities belonging to Cornell’s three contract colleges — the College of Human Ecology, the School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences — were the primary buildings affected by the power outage. However, the entire campus experienced a “momentary disturbance,” and some non-state buildings lost power, Carberry said.

The outage started at about 5:10 p.m. and was caused by the failure of a switch that supplies power to many of the campus buildings funded by New York State. The switch may have failed because an animal possibly entered the equipment, according to Carberry.

A campus facilities special conditions announcement issued at around 6:30 p.m. Sunday instructed all staff who had building systems or equipment that could be affected by a loss of power to check their facilities and notify and building users and occupants.

Before power could be restored to the system, the cause of failure had to be identified, and re-energizing the system could have created additional damage or prolonged the outage, according to Carberry.

By 9:50 p.m. on Sunday, Cornell Utilities crews reported power restoration to most of the affected areas of campus. Beebe Hall, Bruckner Lab, Rice Hall and several poultry barns remained without power, but electricity was restored to those buildings overnight.

Although the power outage did not cause any damage to facilities, it did affect some students who were studying on campus. Marissa Walker ’16 was in Mann Library when the power went out. Shortly afterward, the outage forced Walker to return home because the library was experiencing both Internet and sanitary problems.

“A ton of people started to leave after a while because the WiFi wasn’t working anymore,” Walker said. “Apparently, the automated flushing was also not working for the toilets so it smelled absolutely horrible in there.”

Lindsay Kirschner ’16 was working on a group project when the power outage also forced her to leave Mann Library.

“My partner and I were no longer able to work on our project because not only could we not use the computer in the Collaborative Center, but the Internet was no longer working. After waiting for about 10 minutes or so, we decided it would be a more valuable use of our time to go elsewhere as the electricity was not turning back on,” Kirschner said.

The loss of electricity also caused some classes to readjust their schedules.

Juliana Batista ’16 said that her four-day class — ILRLR 6080: The Practice of Labor Arbitration — ended early despite the instructor continuing the class for several hours without power using an emergency light and some lights from students’ iPhones.

“It was a minor inconvenience, but the professor showed some levity with the situation,” Batista said. “We powered through. It wasn’t the best situation, but I think it was definitely a unique experience.”

Riley Kilgariff ’16, a student in Fiber Science and Apparel Design 2650: Patternmaking for Fashion Design, said that her professor offered a deadline extension for an assignment due Monday after their studio in the Human Ecology Building lost power.