Power outage leaves campus in the dark

A broken power line suddenly took out all systems on campus, leaving students and faculty without electricity or internet.

Virginia Wesleyan went dark on Thursday, Feb. 27, after a campus-wide power outage rendered all electricity-powered systems useless.  For a majority of the evening, campus was entirely blacked out beyond rare back-up generator power and the functions of a few charged phones and laptops.

The power first seemed to waver when lights flickered in the afternoon around quarter until 4 PM.  The Batten Student Center as well as residential areas reported seeing lights go out for a few brief minutes.

Keith Moore, Vice President of Student Affairs, explained the process at the time. “Immediately, 

what we do is we check the grid.  What we try to do first is verify if it‘s local to our university or if it is community, meaning it is beyond.”  

Moments later, a second surge cut off power for a few moments again.  The Office of Student Affairs sent out an email to students at 4:01 PM acknowledging both of the brief outages, citing them as “something to do with the power grid in the local area…not isolated to Virginia Wesleyan.”

Moore confirmed this notion.  “We saw immediately [the outage] went beyond, but not too far. It was the Outlets, it was IKEA, Norfolk Academy.  It was fine from Baker Road up and from Wesleyan Drive over.”

Sometime prior to 5:00 PM, the power went out for a sustained amount of time.  This was due to an Dominion outage, Moore confirmed. “[It] was a downed pole, which I believe was the result of an accident,” suggesting that a compromised transformer off-campus affected powerlines on-campus.

Though the power briefly returned about a half hour later, it would soon leave again for several hours, resulting in the major power outage experienced on campus.

According to Moore, this power outage for several hours was Dominion attempting to make for sustainable reparations to the power lines rather than a temporary fix that had briefly restored power. 

An alert from LiveSafe notified students at 6:00 PM that Dominion Power had “cut power to complete repairs to the campus and surrounding area.”  The message left no time table for full power restoration.

Some campus security acknowledged the possibility that power was lost in surrounding areas and urged students to act safely.

Just after this message was sent out, the sun had set completely on campus, leaving a nearly pitch-black setting in most places.  Students expressed confusion, offering their own theories as to what was going on.

Some blamed the outage on a tripped power line off-campus or electrical troubles in the planning for the Bernie Sanders rally that would take place only two days later.  Others went so far to suggest this to be another, more extreme cyberattack on campus, following the ransomware attack experienced by the VWU community at the end of this past Fall semester.

At 6:53 PM, another safety alert read: “From Virginia Wesleyan University: Will send officers to investigate complaint.  At 7:18 PM, a message followed up reading, “Please disregard the previous correspondence. According to Dominion, power should be restored by approximately 8:00 PM.”

Some students faced academic concerns.  Assignments that were due that night or the following day decided to forgo their coursework or be resourceful.  Students could be found off-campus at local businesses that had internet access and power.

Back on campus, students found creative ways to pass the time.  Some students got together in groups, playing games. Large crowds gathered in Batten for some music.  Others remained calm at their residence, hoping the outage would pass without much trouble. In total, students found ways to make the best of the situation, mourning the short time they had shared with Dining Services’ highly anticipated Soul Food Night in Boyd Dining Hall.

Power remained out well past 8:00 PM.  Security cars could be seen patrolling campus with their emergency lights flashing to maintain safety.  At 8:54 PM “From Virginia Wesleyan University: Dominion has contacted the university and apologized for the delay.  They are working to restore power as soon as possible.”

Power was finally restored sometime around 10:30 PM.  During the outage, campus remained largely safe, with no reported issues.  Since the outage, campus power has been fully operational.

Alex Powers