Power outage strikes North Grand

Classes cancelled as University scrambles to action

Saint Louis University was forced to cancel classes on the north campus on Wednesday, Sept. 30, due to a power outage that affected 23 buildings.

An ominous darkness extended from the clock tower to the various lecture halls beyond the Busch Student Center. The outage caused widespread confusion, as students walked through the blacked-out campus searching for an unaffected building.

“We don’t know what caused the power outage,” said SLU’s Provost, Dr. Nancy Brickhouse, on Wednesday, Sept. 30, while outages continued to occur.

While Ameren and the administration were unable to identify a true source to the outage, they explained that the problem originated in a damaged electrical substation located near the Olive-Compton garage. The substation, which is part of the electrical generation, transmission and distribution system, was said to have extensive damage.

“Initially, we thought that we’d be back up in a matter of hours. It’s like forensic work, so the more they researched and they got into, they realized that the issue was the substation, and that’s an issue that’s not so easily remedied,” added the VP of Student Development, Dr. Kent Porterfield.

The outage created many obstacles that the administration and other staff members had to find solutions to once they realized that the outage was not simply a temporary inconvenience. One problem in particular was the loss of power in the Griesedieck complex, which was the only residence hall without power.

“We were concerned about the number of students who were impacted; it wasn’t a difficult decision to make when we knew we had the option of bringing in the generator,” said Porterfield.

“That was something that we needed to do. When the place where you live doesn’t have power, it creates a whole different set of issues for us to try to manage.”

Residence hall coordinator Shannon Marlow described the situation as somewhat scary for students. She said, “We called on our RA staff to really rally the troops and keep everyone calm and to let them know the problem would be resolved, but it might take a little bit of time.”

Another issue that stemmed from the outage was the food stored in freezers and refrigerators in the affected buildings on campus. While Griesedeck dining hall regained power, eateries in the BSC and Pius Library were still affected.

“It’s been an issue. We’ve had to relocate them from freezers. We thought we were going to have to bring in a refrigerated truck to store, but we were able to move most of the items into the freezers and coolers in Griesedeck and Reinert and some of the other food service areas. We didn’t lose as much product as we feared that we might.”

The administration focused on information and crisis management.

“Philosophically, students come first for us. That was the first thing, how are students impacted and how can we minimize the impact on students, especially in their living environment,” said Porterfield. “We even had talks about having classes in some buildings, but it becomes really difficult to message that, and then you worry that you are going to create more confusion.”

Brickhouse added that their goal was to relieve confusion. “So we wanted to be able to communicate clearly so that students would know what the story was so that they weren’t left guessing.”

After power was restored late Wednesday night, classes resumed Thursday, Oct. 1.

Griesedieck lost power for a short time around 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 1, which university officials said was related to transferring the complex off the generator and back onto the  grid.