SUNY Cortland completed repair to underground high voltage electrical wires beside the entranceway to Clark Hall ahead of schedule, at 2:15 p.m. on Saturday, March 2.
The work was finished safely, and Clark Hall has been restored to normal power, leaving only an area of disturbed bricks that has been cordoned off until campus masons can reset it later this week.
An electrical short — like a giant spark — had occurred there on Monday, Feb. 25, in an underground concrete vault containing the power grid to that area of the campus. As a result, the electricity service was lost temporarily to several buildings on campus.
The cause of the outage was later determined to be a fault that developed in one of the underground conductors, which ultimately shorted. The damaged splice — connection point — that resulted was limited to one electrical line at the underground manhole in front of Clark Hall.
The original electrical outage had affected a major dining facility, Neubig Hall, several mid-campus lecture halls and six student residences, creating the need for many temporary arrangements that day involving evening class cancellations in Cornish and Van Hoesen halls and the Education Building, the direction of students to alternative dining sites, and overnight accommodations for Clark Hall residents with friends or at motels. The SUNY Cortland Child Care Center was closed after 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 25 and reopened the following day.
Because the line needed to be repaired with the power to Clark Hall turned off, the facility was put on an auxiliary generator the next day until the work could be completed this past weekend.
At 10 a.m. on Saturday, power was again temporarily shut down to 10 buildings on campus including six residence halls during the successful repair work, which lasted a little more than four hours.
The College’s Facilities Planning, Design and Construction Office officials learned that the original failure was due to the old age of the high-voltage wires carrying current into the electrical vault or manhole. Insulation covering the electrical wires failed and the escaped electricity caused the arc within the confines of the concrete structure.
The manhole works on a large scale somewhat like the electrical junction box in the walls of a home, explained Jeff Lallas, director of facilities planning, design and construction. The systems are configured to limit a short to inside the protective structure, and that’s what happened in this case.
The new design will be configured for greater reliability and ease of maintenance.
The College is midway through a five-year project to replace all major electrical wiring outside the buildings on the main campus with the new and more effective equipment.