Power failure knocks out lights, classes

Mai Hoang

Those hanging out in lounges at the top of the Hill may have to wait a few days before grabbing a fresh cup of java from their lounge coffee makers.

A power failure Tuesday left several buildings without electricity for 12 hours. Those buildings now have a 50 percent electrical capacity, which is expected to cause several inconveniences in the next few days.

Facilities Management sent a campus-wide e-mail asking everyone on campus to conserve electricity by not using “unnecessary office equipment,” such as space heaters and coffee-makers.

Helm-Cravens Library computer lab has been closed since Tuesday because of the limited power capacity. It will not open until there is enough electrical power to run the air conditioner.

The power went out at about 1:20 a.m. on Tuesday in Cherry Hall, Science and Technology Hall, Gordon Wilson Hall, Helm, Garrett Center, Environmental Science and Technology Hall and the Industrial Education Building, said Steve Barz, assistant director of Facilities Management.

The failure was caused by the malfunction of one of two cables in a conduit that supplied power to all those buildings, Barz said.

Facilities Management workers and others managed to temporarily fix the conduit and allow partial capacity.

Power was turned on at the buildings by 1 p.m, Barz said.

“It’s time-consuming to figure out the problem, he said. “It was actually back on pretty fast for that type of problem.”

D & M Electric, Western’s high voltage contractor, is planning to replace both of the cables, with one cable that has a higher electrical capacity, he said.

The cables should be replaced by next weekend or sooner, he said. Students, faculty and staff will have to continue limiting energy usage until that time.

“We’re trying to work around scheduled campus events and when the contractor can mobilize,” Barz said.

Western already planned to replace old cables that supply the electrical power for all Western’s buildings, he said. Several cables have already been replaced.

It will cost about $10 million to finish entire the project, he said. The cost of the repairs is unknown.

“It’s not something we can piece along with our maintenance budget,” he said. “We need state funds.”

The power outage has caused problems for students, faculty and staff.

English professor Tom Hunley came to his office in Cherry Hall at 6:45 a.m. Tuesday intending to do some extra work before his morning classes.

Instead, he waited in his office for more than two hours because he couldn’t use his computer, where most of his work was stored.

The power outage prevented engineering department head John Reis from doing daily tasks, such as checking e-mail and using a word processor.

He said it did allow him to work on long-term projects and read documents that he had been too busy to read before.

Students had mixed reactions Tuesday when they saw signs at Cherry Hall that announced day classes had been cancelled because of the power failure.

Tompkinsville senior Tracie Roland said she drove 75 miles to campus for day classes, but had to wait around for several hours until her night class.

“I’m kind of aggravated,” she said.

Russellville senior Kyle Hines said he was concerned that he would fall behind in an engineering class taken through the University of Louisville on I-TV.

The class meets in Cherry Hall.

Hines said he was going to contact his professor and get him to post notes from that class session on the Internet.

Others welcomed the break.

Owensboro freshman Lydia Kennedy gave a yelp of joy when she found out her western civilization class was cancelled.

“It’s nice to have a break from a class you have to do so much work in,” she said.

The library was closed during the day on Tuesday.

It caused problems for Owensboro freshman Bri-Anne Johnson. She said she lives off campus and usually goes to the library between classes to do homework in the computer lab.

“It’s kind of frustrating,” she said. “Now I’ll be doing nothing in between classes.”

The Garrett Food Court and Java City were also closed Tuesday, causing many hungry students to have to go down the Hill to Downing University Center for food.

Math professor Jens Harlander usually stops by Java City once a day to get a cup of coffee before his classes.

On Tuesday he had to think of an alternative.

“The math department might have some coffee, but it’s not as good,” he said.

Louisville freshman Rory Padgett was not happy that he could not get a sandwich in the Garrett Food Court, which reopened yesterday.

“It’s irritating, but it’s not like it’s their fault,” he said.

Reporters Kandace Sebastian, Ashlee Clark and Lindsay Reed contributed to this story.

Reach Mai Hoang at [email protected]