Campus-wide power outage leaves people stranded in elevators

Students and faculty plunged into darkness

Photo Courtesy of The Observer

Photo Courtesy of The Observer

Katherine Camarata, Scene Editor

The entire CWU campus briefly lost power due to a lightning and thunder storm, leaving community members stranded in elevators and engulfing campus in darkness, according to the CWU Facebook page and High Voltage Electrician at CWU, Jeffrey Rinehart. 

The outage began at approximately 3:40 p.m. on Friday, June 3, according to the CWU Facebook page. The outage lasted over two hours, with power restored to some parts of campus including the SURC by 5:55 p.m. Within the next hour, power was restored to the entire campus.

According to the CWU Facebook page, all events at the SURC on Friday evening were canceled as a result of the outage, including the Drag Show, the ASCWU Student Leadership Transition, and the improv event. 

The SURC Holmes Dining Hall opened back up from 6-8 p.m. with limited dining service, according to the Facebook update.

“What happened today was there was a lightning strike, and it didn’t actually hit Central,” Rinehart said. “At first, they thought it maybe could have [hit CWU] because it was very close, it was very loud. But it didn’t, it must have hit one of the city’s power lines, and what happened was that it took out part of the circuit which killed us.”

According to Rinehart, there were people stuck in elevators in Wendell Hill Hall but he said he wasn’t sure what other buildings may have had people stuck in elevators. 

Sydney Erickson, a senior in English and liberal studies, said she was in Brooks Library when the outage struck.

“I was sitting in the learning commons and we heard a ten-second-long thunder clap, and then the lights went off so the power went out, and then the emergency lights went back on,” Erickson said. “There were three firefighters by the elevator and they were using some type of tool. I don’t know if they were trying to pry open the elevator or what they were doing.”

Employees from an elevator maintenance company called Kone, U.S. happened to be on campus during the outage, according to Rinehart. 

“We lucked out … we had the elevator service company on campus, so they helped get people out of elevators as well as the fire department,” Rinehart said. “After the power got restored, there were a few fire alarms that were going off.”

Ruthi Erdman, a senior lecturer in English and Women’s and Gender Studies, said she was in the Psychology building when the power disappeared.

“I had to feel my way out,” Erdman said. “I had to use my phone as a flashlight to go down a pitch-dark stairwell. So grateful I wasn’t in an elevator, though. I had been in an elevator just minutes before the outage.”

Erickson said the experience made her feel “freaked out” and she expected something bad to happen.

“It kind of felt like a horror movie, because thunder clapped, then there was rain, then all of a sudden the power was out,” Erickson said. “I just felt bad for whoever was in the elevator, and I felt bad for everybody else in the library trying to get their homework done on the Friday before finals week.”

According to Rinehart, all electricity on campus is restored and back to normal with the help of on-call electricians, one of whom traveled from Cle Elum to assist. 

Story has been updated.