Blackout hits campus; worker collapses

Josh Buckman

Western students experienced a power outage yesterday for the third time in less than a year.

Some buildings may be without air conditioning until this morning after problems at the substation on Dogwood Avenue caused a power outage in 13 campus buildings.

Electricity in those building was restored yesterday evening.

Western’s source of power is distributed from various substations.

The blackout left one student trapped for 10 minutes in an elevator in Helm-Cravens Library, Facilities Management Director Doug Ault said.

He said it is too early to tell exactly what caused the power outage, but the system’s old age could have been the problem.

Many parts of Western’s underground electrical system are more than 40 years old. A $36 million upgrade to the system is under way.

A blackout last November around Cherry Hall left several buildings on top of the Hill without electricity, and another power outage at the Industrial Education Building occurred last March.

Students had different reactions to the power failure.

“My refrigerator flooded,” Glasgow junior Drew Shirley said. “It defrosted and water got all over my dresser drawers. I just got done cleaning it.”

Shirley lives in McLean Hall.

The other 12 buildings affected by the power outage were Southwest Hall, Northeast Hall, Cravens Graduate Center and Library, Grise Hall, Bates-Runner Hall, the Alumni Center, Wetherby Administration Building, the physical plant, the public safety building and the College Heights Foundation building, Ault said.

Not everyone had problems with the blackout. Some students found it provided some relief during a hectic first week of classes.

“I thought it was a good way to start out my college career – getting out of class on the third day,” Glasgow freshman Ben Honeycutt said. “I hope it keeps going out like that.”


Herb Hess, 28, of Tompkinsville, collapsed yesterday while working on the university’s electrical system.

Hess, an electrician in the facilities management department, was trying to create an alternate route for the power system during the blackout when he collapsed, said Bob Skipper, Western’s media relations director.

Hess was transported to The Medical Center after coworkers notified emergency medical services.

Skipper said yesterday afternoon that Hess was in stable condition in the intensive care unit of the hospital.

It is unknown whether the incident was related to Hess’ work on the electrical system.

Reach Josh Buckman at [email protected]