Campus loses power for almost 17 hours

During lunchtime last Friday, shortly before the Lafayette Precision Step Team performed in the Farinon Atrium, and while Director of Lafayette College Public Safety Jeff Troxell was eating lunch in Marquis Hall, power across campus shut off. For the next 17 hours, the campus was in darkness.

“I sort of felt the building just power down,” Troxell said. “Then I got on the radio and I immediately hear the transmission for our dispatch to facilities. I made a call to the director of facilities operations to get to the source of the problem, and he said, ‘Jeff, it’s campus-wide.'”

Power was lost in all but four buildings on campus, including Conway and Buck Hall. Some dining halls had shut down because meals could not be paid, and Gilbert’s remained closed the next day because the power outage had allowed food to soil.

The power went out at around 12:30 pm, and according to Troxell, it was restored at 5:13 a.m. the next morning.

Mackenzie Sangster ’20 was sleeping in the Ruef Hall common room when the power came back on.

“I was sleeping on the couch in the common room, and I woke up when the all the lights just turned back on,” Sangster said. “Then I just got up and proceeded back to my room.”

Assistant Director of Planning Operations George Xiques was one of the people who went to investigate what had happened.

“The tree [limb] fell right across the power lines, and it tore down the pole across the Bushkill where the cemetery is,” Xiques said. “With that it also yanked on lines on a power pole that was on [the Lafayette] side,” 

Facilities also has to “shed the load,” as Troxell puts it, which means they go around campus shutting off switches, so they can eventually cycle power back on in a proper sequence.

According to Xiques, the only equipment that was damaged belonged to MetEd, the college’s electricity supplier, so the costs and repairs fell to them.

“It was MetEd’s equipment, so they took care of it,” Xiques said. “We stand down, they don’t want us anywhere near the equipment.”

Extra foot and vehicle patrols were brought in to make sure everyone was safe. According to Troxell, extra patrols were also centered on extremely dark areas of campus, which were one of public safety’s biggest concerns. Such areas include the walkways of the quad, around Colton Chapel, and the area behind Hogg Hall near McKeen and Gates.

While officials can’t control the weather, Troxell said, in the future, public safety and operations will continue to do inspections along the creek to keep the lines clear. They will also keep working closely with the city of Easton and MetEd to make sure future responses are both quick and effective.

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