Squirrel Causes Two-Hour Campus Power Outage

Gettysburg students have grown fond of the many squirrels seen roving around campus (Photo Merlyn Maldonado/The Gettysburgian)

A squirrel was responsible for the power outage that struck the Gettysburg College campus on Thursday afternoon  (Photo Merlyn Maldonado/The Gettysburgian).

By Benjamin Pontz, Editor-in-Chief

At Wednesday afternoon’s Convocation ceremony, Gettysburg College President Bob Iuliano advised the first-year class that the efforts of individuals could have a transformational impact on the Gettysburg campus, quoting Abraham Lincoln’s famous admonition that “the best way to predict the future is to create it.” On Thursday afternoon, a squirrel behind the Quarry Pond near the railroad tracks demonstrated that possibility for an individual’s impact to snowball when it touched both wires on an electrical pole causing a power outage across campus that extended into the town of Gettysburg.

The nearly two-hour outage began around 12:10 p.m. and continued until just after 2:00 p.m. In the process, the interruption shut down the campus network, and both wireless and wired internet remained down for most of Thursday afternoon.

Just under 700 first-year students were engaged in Orientation activities after moving in yesterday while athletes, members of the marching band, and various other student groups were already on campus ahead of the start of classes next Monday. Nearly a dozen text, phone and email alerts went out throughout the afternoon, but, as of 4:00 p.m., the college’s website remained out of service. The website went back online in the evening.

The outage affected various areas of campus including WZBT campus radio, which was off air for the duration of the outage. The Dining Center lost power, but remained in operation despite the failure of its electronic drink machines, requiring the provision of alternate beverages. Lines extended out the door of Servo and around the corner with hundreds of first-years waiting to eat. In the powerless first-year residence halls, the electronic card access was supplanted temporarily by a mechanical key entry system.

The Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) phone lines also failed during the outage, the first time in recent memory that has occurred, college spokesperson Jamie Yates confirmed to The Gettysburgian.

“It’s a unique occurrence that was likely caused by one of the generators in Penn Hall that supports phone lines not coming on,” she said. “We are looking into it to prevent a reoccurrence.”

Temporarily, alternate phone numbers to reach DPS were provided to the campus.

The college’s power has gone out several times in recent years including a 90-minute outage in October 2017 during which the college did not send out timely warning messages. That led to a review of the college’s emergency procedures, and, Thursday afternoon, numerous messages were disseminated.

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Author: Benjamin Pontz

Benjamin Pontz '20 served as Editor-in-Chief of The Gettysburgian from 2018 until 2020, Managing News Editor from 2017 until 2018, News Editor in the spring of 2017, and Staff Writer during the fall of 2016. During his tenure, he wrote 232 articles. He led teams that won two first place Keystone Press Awards for ongoing news coverage (once of Bob Garthwait's resignation, and the other of Robert Spencer's visit to campus) and was part of the team that wrote a first-place trio of editorials in 2018. He also received recognition for a music review he wrote in 2019. A political science and public policy major with a music minor, he graduated in May of 2020 and will pursue a master's degree in public policy on a Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Manchester before enrolling in law school.

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  1. Okay this is great and all, but what happened to the squirrel? Can we get an addendum?

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    • A source that asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media said that the squirrel was alive when crews arrived to investigate, but that source could not say (really) whether the squirrel is still alive. I’m afraid that’s all I’ve been able to dig up on that front.

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