Power outages due to wind resolved quickly
On Monday, Feb. 25, winds reaching as high as 60 mph caused a power outage that affected multiple facilities on and off campus. Specifically, Morewood E-Tower, Morewood Gardens, and Stever House lost power for several hours. The affected housing facilities, almost exclusively first-year housing, kept emergency lighting with gas generators, but most essential utilities were disabled: outlets, lights, heat, hot water, internet and cable, and washers and dryers.
“I wanted to riot,” first-year civil engineering major and Morewood resident Jared Hayes said in response to the power outage. Although said jokingly, this sentiment was telling of student attitudes about the loss of electricity, the disconnected routers and boilers inconvenient for the residents of these facilities.
Several residents took advantage of the otherwise unaffected campus, fleeing across Forbes Avenue to take showers in the Cohon Center gym. Braving temperatures as cold as 22°F the morning of these treks. First-year electrical and computer engineering major and Morewood resident, Breyden Wood, said that “I’ve dealt with cold water before, and I went into the [Morewood] shower to try and tough it out. And it was just colder than cold, so I had to go to the UC.”
First-year rowers, Morewood residents, and engineering majors Nicholas Acuna and Benjamin Pavlat may well have enjoyed the last of Morewood E-Tower’s hot water that morning thanks to their 5:30 a.m. rowing practice. “The rowers get the hot water,” Nicholas joked. A good fifteen minutes of hot water that is, as Benjamin and Nicholas estimated.
Right next door, things became somewhat theatrical in Stever House, another site of the power outage. “The elevators did this weird thing where they let out this strange buzzing sound, the doors stood wide open, and the lights were flickering wildly. All of the doors of the building that are left open shut,” said Augustus Saalfeld, first-year information systems and creative writing major and Stever House resident. According to Saalfeld, disappointment swept the building when vending machines froze, but some students were relieved thanks to the good excuse to take a break from homework.
Beyond first-year housing facilities and Carnegie Mellon’s campus, the outage affected much of the nearby area: streetlights along Fifth Avenue intersections, Walnut Street, and some Murray Street storefronts and apartments all lost power.
As for businesses, The Underground, a loved Carnegie Mellon dining and workspace in the Morewood basement, had to close due to the outages, reopening at around 4:00 p.m., seven and a half hours after it typically opens. Manager Garrett Moran reported that the freezers luckily stayed on for the most part.
Even so, The Underground’s General Manager, J.R. Teyssier, estimated that $500 worth of food had to be thrown out due to the power outage, with $2,000 in lost business, which he considered an inconvenience for both the campus community — students looking for something to eat — and the restaurant itself.
Costs on Carnegie Mellon’s part, like heat restoration, were covered by everyday maintenance fees, with Duquesne Light responsible for bringing energy back to campus. At the height of the power outage, Duquesne Light was also responsible for restoring power to what may have been as many as 125,000 customers across Allegheny and Beaver counties. Total damages included approximately 125 downed poles and 500 downed wires.
Power returned to student housing at around 1:30 p.m. on the same day of the outage. Had the outage lasted into the evening, Carnegie Mellon Facilities Management and Campus Services and Residence Education were working on a backup plan to restore at least heating and hot water.
Wednesday, Feb. 27, two days after the outage, Executive Director of Housing Services & Space Planning, Thomas Cooley, said that “the CMU team worked well to get communications out to students with what they knew, and there are still people in the area without power today. Three buildings out of all our buildings is pretty small relative to the campus. Looking at the campus as a whole, the impact was minimal, which was something I was happy to see.”