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January 10, 2002

Pitt weathers 1st storm of new year

The beginning of spring term classes Monday morning coincided with the first significant snowfall of the winter, but Pitt avoided any major utility breakdowns, roof leaks or power outages this week — until yesterday.

More than 20 Pitt buildings lost electricity for over an hour when several Duquesne Light power lines went down. The outage began shortly after 11:30 a.m. and power was restored by 1 p.m.

"Many other buildings on campus experienced power blinks as Duquesne Light attempted to restore power," according to Pitt's Facilities Management office.

Physics and astronomy chairperson David Jasnow said the outage in Allen Hall damaged experiments by "at least a couple" of professors in his department. "When outages like this happen, it is not benign," Jasnow said. "Experiments that are running may have to be restarted, and [research data] gets lost."

Joe Kapelewski said he and another University photographer were working on photos for the athletics department, while a machine elsewhere in their office processed digital slides, when electricity went out in the Information Sciences Building. "It caught us by surprise. We lost at least 20 minutes' worth of work," Kapelewski said.

For many Pitt personnel, the outage was relatively well-timed, at least. "Many of our people were on their lunch hours" when electricity went out in the Learning Research and Development Center, said John C. Aug, director of Administrative R&D Services at LRDC. "If we would have had a conference here it would have had an impact, but the timing was really pretty good. From what we can gather, nobody lost data and our computers were back up pretty quickly."

Within 24 hours of Sunday's snowfall, Pitt snow removal crews had cleared campus walkways and parking lots, according to Chuck Turbanic, assistant vice chancellor for maintenance and operations in the University's Facilities Management office.

"It took us about two days to finally clear all of the snow off the top of the OC parking lot [near Trees Hall] and around some of the parking meters, but those were about the only delays we had," Turbanic said.

Chilly offices greeted some Pitt personnel who returned from the holiday break last week — one Cathedral of Learning staffer reported a temperature of 56 degrees in her office last Wednesday — but Turbanic attributed that to routine energy conservation measures by Facilities Management over the holiday break, combined perhaps with some supervisors' overzealous efforts to save energy by turning thermostats down too low.

Turbanic said yesterday that he hadn't heard complaints about under- or over-heated classrooms. "That's not to say there aren't any out there, but I have yet to hear of any personally from my staff," he said.

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 34 Issue 9

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