Backup generators fail during power outage


Donovan Wilson Reporter

Power outages aren’t exactly unlikely at a large college campus, especially in a metropolitan area, but things become more complicated when a giant snowstorm approaches the state.

On Sunday, Jan. 31, the power went out. It started off as an incident that had happened on the streets but spread to campus. The major issue came when the support generators never turned on and the power remained out for several hours as a snowstorm approached.

A nor’easter was approaching and had been slated to last through Monday and most, if not all, of that Tuesday. When the power did not come on, the university feared students would be stuck in the dark for several days.

So, administration made the decision to allow students to go home even though the quarantining period had not ended. However, about an hour after letting students return home, the power came back.

“All of east campus had lost power and the transfer of power to the generators never went through,” said Tracy Tyree, vice president of student affairs.

The support generators never turned on. The maintenance team had to be called in to make repairs. After several hours of uncertainty, they were able to get everything back online and connected to the generator. That generator ran the power on this particular section of campus from that night until the morning of Thursday, Feb. 4.

Students were allowed to go home to wait out the storm. Prior, many students were in quarantine and this could have possibly undid those effects. Many of the students were new to quarantine and placed in Neff Hall. Staff encouraged students under quarantine to stay on campus and they were relocated to rooms with electricity.

When the power came back on shortly after the announcement that night, students were allowed to stay at their dorms but were encouraged to wait out the storm at home.

“The repair was going slower than expected so when it was about to really get dark we decided to send the students home,” said Robert Demezzo, director of residence life. Southern has many plans and procedures set in place for this sort of issue. In this case, the procedure did not work.

Every residence hall has two-bit radios to communicate and there were emergency lights in place, although they only provided about 90 minutes of light as they were battery powered. Residence life also has a giant backstock of batteries and flashlights.

“I’m an out-of- state student from Massachusetts, so I panicked quite a bit,” said theater major Samhain Perez, a freshman.

The campus and residence life worked to accommodate students having complications with the situation. As mentioned before, there was a heavy focus on providing housing for students who could not go home but needed electricity. Conn. Hall also lost power.

Residential students were served dinner in the student center until about 8 o’clock to ensure all students ate. DeMezzo mentioned staff did an admirable job helping the campus get through all of this.

All of this happened on a Sunday, so most staff were home and had to be called in if they were needed. all of the staff came in to make sure everyone got home safe. Some staff even went door to door in the residence halls to ensure everyone was accounted for.

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