Campus faces blackout

by Sera Kwon and Roshan Dutta | 1/6/14 11:14pm

by Sasha Dudding and Sasha Dudding / The Dartmouth

A two-hour blackout left students and faculty in the dark on Monday, the first day of winter classes. After trudging through the slush to arrive at class, students were forced to read their syllabi by the light of their cellphones’ flashlights while professors had to improvise without lecture slides.

The outage, caused by a faulty power line at Liberty Utilities, the College’s electricity provider, affected approximately 65 College buildings, said associate vice president of Facilities, Operations and Management Frank Roberts. It stretched from 9:52 a.m. to 11:55 a.m. Although Liberty Utilities initially forecast that the problem would be resolved by 11 a.m., only buildings on the northern part of campus had received power by that time.

Businesses and homes in downtown Hanover were also included in the tally of the 143 Liberty Utilities customers who lost power, company spokesperson John Shore said.

While heating in residence halls and classrooms was largely undisturbed, telephone and Internet access were affected, Roberts said.

Some professors cancelled class due to the weather, but many taught without functioning lights, computers or projectors.

Experiencing his first power outage after six years at Dartmouth, Arabic professor Mostafa Ouajjani was unable to use his PowerPoint slides in his morning class, but said it did not prevent him from teaching. He added, however, that the outage had a somewhat negative effect on student-teacher interaction.

“I wasn’t able to read through the students’ faces to see how well-prepared they were and also to see clearly their reaction to what was presented to them,” Oujjani said. “I felt there was something missing in the communication.”

Lily Citrin ’17 said she appreciated how quickly her anthropology professor adapted to the circumstances.

Though she was unable to see the syllabus in the dark and almost nodded off, Citrin said the day’s excitement helped her and her peers stay awake.

Other faculty members changed the order of their class agendas, using technology when power returned.

During the outage, some students had difficulty finding hot food and beverages for breakfast and lunch. Dartmouth Dining Services facilities, as well as King Arthur Flour cafe, were affected, and students who instead chose to make the trip to Starbucks arrived to find the store closed due to lack of power.

Following the outage, Facilities, Operations and Management is examining its heating, ventilating, air conditioning and fire alarm systems to make sure that they are fully operational, but Roberts said he did not anticipate any lasting consequences.

Shore said that while the cause of yesterday’s outage is unlikely to be a recurring problem, similar events have happened in the past. He added that the company is not taking specific measures to prevent future occurrences, but will continue to perform regular maintenance and upgrades.

The College’s most recent outage occurred the morning of July 16, when parts of campus and downtown Hanover were without power for nearly two hours following a failure in one of Liberty Utilities’ electrical feeders.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center experienced a power outage for several hours on Sept. 21 after a component of the hospital’s electrical system overheated.

A Timeline of the Morning's Blackout

9:52 a.m. Main and northern portions of campus lose electrical power due to an interruption of service from Liberty Utilities, caused by a faulty power line. West campus experiences a power surge but does not lose power entirely.

10:00 a.m. Students and professors begin class in the dark. Those seeking breakfast in Dartmouth Dining Services facilities or King Arthur Flour find no hot food available and limited supplies of coffee. In downtown Hanover, Starbucks closes while Dirt Cowboy Cafe remains open.

10:25 a.m. Vice president for information technology and chief information officer Ellen Waite-Franzen announces the that network access will begin to fail if the outage lasts longer than 30 to 45 minutes and will return when power is restored.

10:41 a.m. Power has been restored at the Geisel School of Medicine, the McLaughlin cluster and the Science complex. Main campus still lacks power.

11:15 a.m. Some professors reschedule classes due to lack of power, while others decide to hold their first class of the term in the dark.

11:43 a.m. Main campus still lacks power. Associate vice president of Facilities, Operations and Management Frank Roberts informs campus in an email that the College’s Emergency Planning Group will meet shortly in case the outage continues. Liberty Utilities estimates that power will return by 12:30 p.m.

11:55 a.m. Power is restored across campus.


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