College explains cause of last week’s blackout

Penn Hall is dark except for emergency lighting during the Nov. 8 blackout. For more photos, check out The Gettysburgian’s Facebook page. (Photo by Eric Lee)

By Tyler Leard, Staff Writer

At 10:12 p.m. on Nov. 8, Gettysburg College went dark.

The cause of the blackout was the failure of the main input line for the school, which runs underground through the area behind the fitness center. Both the school and Met-Ed, the power company which serves the college, are unsure where or how the line was cut.

A small amount of electricity was still able to pass through the line, which caused some lights and devices to flicker. In essence, the blackout was in fact a brownout until Met-Ed, in their attempts to deal with the problem, cut the line completely. The college WiFi was also shut down by the IT Department in order to protect the servers.

“We were able to get the generators running pretty quickly, did some other things, such as using portable lights, to keep the basic services going, and restore power to the Dining Hall and some other areas via generator,” said Department of Public Safety Director William Laffertey. “I think that the school and the facilities department responded very quickly.”

However, not all of the transitions to generator power went smoothly. A generator malfunction in Glatfelter Hall resulted in the motor of the generator burning and several reports of smoke in the building, although there was no damage.

Emergency exit signs illuminate a hallway during the power outage. For ore photos, check out The Gettysburgian’s Facebook page. (Photo by Eric Lee)

After some early-morning deliberation, the administration cancelled classes for Thursday morning due to safety hazards involving the lack of power in academic buildings based on reports from Met-Ed that the electricity would be out until late afternoon on that day.

Fall Convocation, which was scheduled for that morning, was postponed. The power itself was restored several hours ahead of schedule shortly after 6 a.m.. The power is currently being routed through a temporary above-ground line. The college and Met-Ed are discussing the long-term replacement for the damaged line, which will probably occur over Thanksgiving or Christmas Break.

The experience has caused the College to consider some changes to reduce the chance of future blackouts and deal better with them in the future. These would include the installation of new circuits that would allow the immediate booting of generators in essential buildings such as the Dining Hall and the College Union Building, which could serve as gathering places in case students needed to be evacuated.

The College also is considering the implementation of electric loops in the power circuit, which would allow certain areas of campus to continue operating during a blackout, although this would be a very lengthy and expensive process.

For now, the blackout will be remembered as an example of effective response by the administration and as a strange night for students.

“We all reacted well” said Laffertey. “Hopefully we can get some meaning out of this.”

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Author: Jennifer Kiebach

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