Winds lead to power outage, shut down campus

With three exams headed her way, Amanda DeSollar knew this would be a tough week. She had counted on Sunday evening to provide studying time.

But when a power outage shut down the University’s online network and the electricity in buildings across campus, the anxiety began to build for the sophomore in ACES.

“Lectures are online, homework I need to do is online, e-mails I need to send are online,” DeSollar said. “It makes studying really difficult.”

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Students take advantage of wind, power outage

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Students were among the thousands of AmerenIP customers left in the dark well into the night when a Sidney, Ill., sub-station failure cut power to campus. Champaign County was hit hard by strong winds Sunday afternoon and evening.

Ameren estimated more than 9,000 Champaign County customers were without power at the outage’s peak Sunday afternoon. University students are not measured as individual customers, but instead the institution is measured as several accounts, according to Neal Johnson, Ameren spokesman.

A mass e-mail and text message were sent through the emergency Illini-Alert system around 6:30 p.m. notifying recipients of the outage and advising them to gain information from local media.

“We had hoped the power would be back on before dark…and we wanted to make sure students who had signed up for messages knew they had to tune into local media for more information,” said Robin Kaler, University spokeswoman.

Another text message was sent out shortly before 10 p.m. alerting students that power had been restored and Monday classes would be held.

At time of press, the University network had just become available to Internet users, including the home page.

Crews were sent out to perform “temporary repairs” Sunday night and will continue to work in the area this week.

Officials at the Abbott Power Plant, 1117 S. Oak St., were in communication with AmerenIP throughout the afternoon, and as night approached, made plans to provide an alternate source of power to essential facilities.

Patrons were asked to leave campus buildings as power went out around 3:30 p.m., including the Activities and Recreation Center, Grainger Engineering Library, the Illini Union and the Undergraduate Library.

The Siebel Center for Computer Science switched to backup power from a generator upstairs after the power went out, a necessity at a facility that stores large amounts of electronic equipment.

“Our server room is well over 100 degrees right now and we need to keep them cool,” said Ari Blumenthal, sophomore in LAS and member of the Association for Computer Machinery. “We have to keep certain servers running that are essential for some processes such as the security system.”

Events around campus were canceled due to the outages, including a concert at Assembly Hall featuring rapper T.I.

Administrators advised researchers to contact building managers to make adjustments for experiments sensitive to temperature or light and encouraged students living in residence halls to gather in common areas rather than stay in their dark rooms alone.

University police sent out extra patrols to ease safety concerns and resident advisers began making rounds to prevent use of candles or other open flames in residence halls.

For some, the outage provided a change of pace, with soccer games in hallways and card games in residence hall lobbies. But the frustration of being cut off from University Web sites, including e-mail and class information on Compass, made the experience less than enjoyable for others.

“With the outage turning off all the TVs and computers, my first instinct was to do homework,” said Jonathan Salter, freshman in FAA. “But I can’t even do that because I can’t get to Compass.”

Shawn Adderly, Kathleen Foody, Eric Heisig, Emily Herbick, Melissa Silverberg, Rachel Small, Lauren Stewart, Jennifer Wheeler and Marie Wilson contributed to this report.