April winds put residents of 13 dorms in the dark

When Speech sophomore Sanjay Sood ordered a pizza early Saturday morning, he expected the deliverer to call in a few minutes with the late-night snack in hand.

Only problem: His cordless phone stopped working when the electricity in Willard Residential College went out.

“We went downstairs and waited for about 20 minutes because we knew our phone wouldn’t work,” Sood said. “We ended up getting the pizza, but we ate it in the dark.”

Students at 13 dorms grabbed flashlights and stumbled out of dark rooms shortly after midnight Friday when stormy weather knocked out power for up to eight hours in some dorms, said Gary Wojtowicz, chief operating engineer for facilities management. At Willard, all stairwell and hall lights went dark, leaving only emergency exit signs lit.

Wojtowicz was unaware that Willard experienced total power failure and could not comment on the safety issues involved. He said that the dorm’s limited battery backup should have provided enough energy for stairwell and hall lights. Most other dorms have stronger battery backup, while four dorms — Foster-Walker Complex, Shepard Residential College, Allison Hall and Kemper Hall — have generators in case of power failures.

“It was pretty funny for about the first half hour because it was incredibly dark,” Sood said.

Although some students had fun running around in the dark, others were confused when they returned from Friday night outings.

“It was pretty unnerving for everybody,” said Ayelish McGarvey, an Education junior. “When I came home, there were no lights anywhere.”

In addition to dark halls, Willard residents endured cold showers until Saturday afternoon.

“All you could hear were screams from the bathroom,” Sood said. “So nobody could take a shower in the morning.”

Although the electricity returned to Willard within about three hours, many Allison residents woke up to dead alarm clocks. The power returned to Allison at about 10 a.m., which also caused the dining hall to remain closed all day.

Resident Assistant Josh Kobrin said the outage was less of an inconvenience and more of a social occasion.

“Most residents ambled out into the halls and waited for the power to come back on,” said Kobrin, a Speech senior. “If anything, it fostered community.”

Kobrin said several Allison residents lit candles when the lights went out. So he walked around telling them to blow out the candles in case anyone fell asleep while they were still lit.

“In a situation like that, when they’re using them for a purpose, not just sitting around by the candles, it becomes a serious issue,” Kobrin said.

A 24-hour facility management staff also was on duty to help students when the outage caused malfunctions in Marlok security locks.

For many who were asleep or out all night, though, the outage went unnoticed, said Speech senior Carissa Wright, a Shepard resident.

“Because it was a Saturday, it wasn’t a problem for most people,” she said.