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UMD Campus Loses Power, Some Find Day Disrupted

Melissa Pachikara
Maryland Newsline
Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2006; additional info added Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2006

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - A power outage on the University of Maryland College Park campus and nearby neighborhoods Tuesday morning trapped some people in elevators and disrupted classes and lunch plans, campus police and others said.

Pepco was investigating the outage, said spokesman Robert Dobkin. He said two of the four electrical feeders for campus shorted out, and about 1,900 customers were affected. A feeder is a large electrical copper cable that functions as a circuit to feed power to neighborhoods, he said.

About a dozen people got stuck in high-rise dorm elevators while the power was out from about 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., said Maj. Cathy Atwell, public information officer for the University of Maryland Department of Public safety.

“No one was hurt,” she said.

The whole campus was without power for about an hour, along with parts of College Park, Atwell said. Traffic lights went out on streets near campus, and officers had to direct traffic for a while, she said.

The outage interrupted some classes, as power went out for lights, computers and projectors. “My [economics] class got out an hour early,” said junior Lindsey Warne, 20. “The professor needs the computer to play slides for the class, and she couldn’t access them.” 

At McKeldin Library, the situation was “a pain,” said librarian Tim Hackman. “It was a full house, and everyone’s trying to get their things done” but couldn’t, he said. 

The amount of natural light coming into campus buildings had an impact on how well people could cope with the outage.

Natural light in many of the University Health Center’s rooms allowed staff to work normally, said Dr. Sacared Bodison, the director. But the health center also had another power source.

"We have a back-up generator, and that kicked in and kept our critical equipment operating," Bodison said. She said they were able to do an electrocardiogram and check people’s vital signs during the outage.

In contrast, food services in the Stamp Student Union, which also had some back-up power sources, were forced to close briefly because of a lack of natural light.

"They couldn’t see to make sandwiches," said Bart Hipple, assistant director for communication for dining services.

Michael Rodgers, 28, a junior history major, said he was among those who had to switch lunch plans. He headed to Marathon Deli on Route 1.  

Millree Williams, director of university communications, said it could take two days for the electrical feeders to be repaired, but that campus needs would be met with the two remaining electrical feeders. Electrical needs are down because the campus is not fully staffed due to the approaching Thanksgiving holiday, Williams said. 

The campus Office of Information Technology took down computer servers during the outage so that they wouldn’t suffer any damage, Williams added.  Servers were expected to be fully available again two hours after the power outage was over.

“Our main concern is safety and then to restore power as quickly as we can,” Dobkin said.

Copyright 2006 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism


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