Just after 1 p.m. on Martin Luther King Day, an unknown electrical surge left the Keene State College community with endless questions.
After the “10 to 15” second power glitch, Sergeant Joel Huntley said Campus Safety became “inundated with phone calls.” Huntley said the only information Campus Safety had in relation to the outage was that it happened “somewhere off campus.”
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Public Service of N.H. (PSNH) Community Relations Manager, Sue Blothenburg, said the campus’s main power enters off of Winchester Street and goes through one main line into a circuit breaker. Off of that larger circuit breaker stems multiple circuit breakers that are maintained by the campus. “PSNH maintains that big breaker,” Blothenburg said.
Although students were left with questions, they were not the only ones. “We are not aware of any outage of PSNH equipment that would have caused any kind of interruption to the campus,” Blothenburg said.
Blothenburg said PSNH’s equipment would show indication of an outage if the outage lasted longer than three seconds. However, Blothenburg said PSNH’s equipment did not show any indication of a campus-wide outage.
Despite the unknown, Blothenburg said she would attribute the blip to parts of the campus that PSNH would call an internal issue, meaning a problem with the circuits controlled by the campus.
Assistant Supervisor of Electrical Services at the Physical Plant, Bill Sevigny, said if the surge happened on campus “it wouldn’t have just been a surge. Any surge that happens where PSNH ends and we take over would have been recognized by a location. It was campuswide from the feed of PSNH,” Sevigny said.
KSC Electrician, Tim Garland, said, “My guess would be something off campus caused a blip in the incoming line.” However, Garland said there is “no way for us to know.”
Although the exact location of the outage may forever be unknown, one KSC senior has insight as to where the outage occurred.
KSC senior Chelsea Greene Shillieto remembers the afternoon clearly. “I was driving down Winchester Street; there was a woman walking down the street next to me. She had ear muffs on.”
Greene Shillieto said as soon as she drove past the telephone pole near Andy’s Cycle Shop on Winchester Street she saw sparks coming from the pole. “It made this loud noise and some sparks fell on my car.”
Andy’s Cycle Shop sits on the city side of the street, rather than on the college side.
Greene Shillieto said she swerved but kept driving. “The lady walking was scared,” she added.
Although the sparks caused Greene Shillieto to swerve she said she was fine. “I kept driving.”
Proceeding the blast, Greene Shillieto said she called Campus Safety, “They told me that the power just went out.”
In return, Greene Shillieto said Campus Safety asked her where the sparks occurred and told her the Campus Safety office would make note of it. That was the last Greene Shillieto said she heard about the outage.
Garland said all of the buildings in the campus loop lost power for a brief period of time. “The history of one of the fire alarm panels looked like eight seconds.”
Garland said the outage sent equipment through its process of restoration and functions like power resorting generators kicked on. Garland said the college has multiple back up generators in case of a power outage.
Although some buildings on campus resumed power in a timely fashion, buildings like Pondside III lost power for a longer period of time.
“P3 is sensitive to loss and restoration of power,” Garland said.
KSC senior and Pondside III resident Katie Levesque said she was in the shower when the power went out. Levesque said she attributed the dark room to a burnt out light bulb and scurried to grab a flashlight.
Levesque said she noticed her alarm clock wasn’t on and realized the power had gone out.
Levesque said the power was out in Pondside III for over an hour.
Greene Shillieto, who is also a Pondside III resident, said she ran an errand after witnessing the sparks and returned to Pondside III a half hour later. “The power was still off when I got back,” she said. “It wasn’t a huge inconvenience.”
Garland said it took him and one other electrician roughly an hour to reset equipment and to get the campus up and running before heading home.
Air handling equipment such as heating and ventilation equipment were a few of the items checked, Garland said. Along with the elevator in Morrison Hall.
Despite the surge, Garland said as far as he knows there was no harm done to any equipment. “Nothing needed to be repaired or had any major problems.”
Since it was a holiday and classes were not in session, Garland estimates that roughly 2,500 people, plus staff members who happened to be working that day, experienced the outage.
Although the exact cause of the power outage is still unknown, Blothenburg said, “We have a power outage whether it’s a weekday, weekend, or holiday.”
Jordan Cuddemi can be contacted at email@example.com.