Suicide squirrel causes campus blackout
Power was down on UAF’s entire main campus Thursday morning, leading to some cancelled classes and a lot of cold showers. Officials believe that a squirrel was to blame for the Earth Day power outage.
UAF lost power after a failure at a Golden Valley Electric Association substation off University Avenue caused UAF’s main turbine to fail. A squirrel was found lying next to the substation, burnt from electrocution, and is believed to have caused the outage. Many students said they were thankful that the animal sacrificed itself so that Springfest could start early by canceling or cutting short afternoon classes. Power was restored in most locations within a couple of hours so not all classes were halted, but effects of the blackout persisted throughout the day.
During the blackout after the transformer blew, rumors flew about the cause of the outage. Firefighters responded to the minor fire that resulted at the GVEA substation, and the cluster of emergency vehicles led to speculation that a car accident was responsible for the transformer damage. The car-accident rumor gained credibility, even turning up on the official UAF status recording as the cause of the outage, before the squirrel’s charred remains were found and the rumor put to rest.
After the power turned back on, some campus services were still out of order. The university’s computer systems were out most of the day because the outage affected cooling systems for the university’s computer data center, according to Director of Facilities Linda Zanazzo in an e-mail to the staff list-serve sent that afternoon.
Water service was also interrupted in some places on campus. Water was entirely unavailable in some areas, and hot water was unavailable in additional locations. In some locations, such as the high-volume Moore-Bartlett-Skarland dormitory complex, hot water service was not restored until 24 hours after power had returned.
In addition to inconveniences to students, faculty and staff, the GVEA failure was an expensive one for UAF. The transformer event led to a cascading failure at the campus’ coal power plant, where the main turbine was out of commission all day Thursday. Without on-campus power, UAF had to purchase power from GVEA at a significantly higher rate. An e-mail was sent to the staff list-serve on Thursday asking people to conserve energy so that UAF could minimize the amount of power being purchased.