The River Campus lost electrical power twice on Saturday night when a chipmunk found its way into the electrical apparatus that controls the power grid. The electrical switchgear is located on Monroe Court in Hill Court, the final system on the power grid.
After the power went out at 6:03 p.m., University employees hurried to Hill Court to determine the problem and began to phase power back in. This process began at the Interfaith Chapel and continued one system at a time. However, the cause of the outage was still unclear, leaving the system vulnerable.
By 10:40 p.m., power was restored across campus except for Hill Court, according to Electrician Work Leader Scott Attili.
“When we phased Hill Court in, everything went out again,” Director of the University Central Plant Bruce Smith said.
The second blackout only briefly affected the majority of campus, lasting for under a minute. Once the employees had determined that the glitch in the system had occurred at Hill Court, they could safely phase on all the grids until Towers and work solely on Hill Court.
The cause of the blackout was determined when an employee heard a noise coming from the Hill Court switchgear. He discovered the chipmunk stuck in the gears. Employees set the animal free, and by 12:52 a.m., Smith and his team finally fired Hill Court back up.
Smith explained that the chipmunk caused a spark in the switchgear, leaving it blackened and damaged. However, he is confident that this will not happen again.
“Our guys have been reviewing areas where the chipmunk went in, closing everything up,” he said, mentioning loading areas and open doors. “It doesn’t take much for a chipmunk to get in.”
Wrobel is a member of the class of 2010.