Power outage shocks Wheaton campus — and a squirrel

Around 5 p.m. last Tuesday, a squirrel climbed into the college’s junction box, causing a massive power outage. All main campus buildings, including Buswell library, Beamer Center, Blanchard Hall, and the Billy Graham Center went dark, as electricians searched around campus to locate the source of the outage. The power outage also shut down campus phone networking, including office telephones. Four hours later, lights were back on, but many buildings remained closed.
Although most campus buildings lost power, the college-owned apartments and houses were not affected. Wheaton College’s generator kicked on and provided light to all of the residences. The Common Wealth Edison Company, the distributor of the city of Wheaton’s electricity, was not prompt in responding to the matter. It took their electricians one and a half hours to arrive on the scene. Meanwhile, Wheaton College’s facilities management called in extra staff to address the issue. Workers stayed on campus until midnight, checking power lines and buildings to ensure safety.
According to a Public Safety dispatcher, the Public Safety office received hundreds of phone calls when the initial outage hit, between 5 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. They enlisted extra officers later that night to check buildings and turn off beeping alarms.
The campus-wide power outage created more complications than initially met the eye. According to Bon Appetit employee Andrew Boston, the food providers faced difficulties from lack of functioning lights, ovens, coolers and dishwashers.
With the dish washing machine out, Bon Appetit faced the need to use disposable silverware, plates and cups. Candles placed around the dining hall were the only lighting other than the windows. Boston stated that in the back kitchen, one cook worked as the other held a flashlight.
Shortly thereafter, the fire alarms were triggered and the Beamer Center was evacuated. Fire trucks, police and public safety officers flooded campus, while students congregated outside of Anderson Commons. Bon Appetit closed their food services for the evening, leaving students with no on-campus food options available. Many students left campus, arranging alternate dinner options and others simply did not eat.
Meanwhile, professors who taught night classes faced the problem of where to hold their classes. A few classes were canceled, but the majority of the events on campus relocated and proceeded as normal. Midterms on Middle Eastern politics were proctored, accounting study sessions continued, and choir ensembles rehearsed in the dark. The Men’s Glee Club and the Women’s Chorale rehearsed Haydn’s “The Creation” in the dark, with their scores facing the windows for light.
Senior Nicole Spewak had a test in her modern Middle East class that night. She said, “Since the power was out, we took our midterm in the Williston lobby. It was open floor too, so people kept coming in and yelling about open floor and the power outage.”
In the library, sophomore circulation worker Jonathan Lindstrom was assisting patrons at the front desk when the power went out.
“At first I was confused, but I also felt prepared because I had been given such great training by the library. So, when the power went out, I knew what had to be done and I think we all handled the situation pretty well.”
Some students were irritated that they received no communication from administration, facilities management, public safety or any leadership on campus explaining what happened to address the situation. Others still would like Bon Appetit to give them an extra meal or a refund for their missing Tuesday night dinner.

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