Blackout Traps 20 in Warren Towers Elevators
Three towers evacuated when a failed transformer blows power and generates smoke
Twenty residents of Warren Towers were trapped in elevators for as long as two hours Saturday evening and appoximately 1,600 people were forced to vacate the triple tower high-rise dormitory when an arc flash shut down a transformer in the B Tower electrical room.
The electrical short, reported to the Boston Fire Department at 7:21 p.m., generated heat and smoke, but no injuries were reported.
William Walter, assistant vice president for operations and services in the Facilities Management and Planning office, says engineers are still investigating the cause of the short, which emanated from a high-voltage wire that enters the basement of B Tower and caused about $300,000 worth of damage. Walter says the short burned through insulation on electrical wires, sending smoke through the building and setting off sprinklers in the main foyer. It also knocked out electrical power in all three towers, necessitating immediate evacuation.
Walter says the evacuation of the enormous dormitory went smoothly.
“Everyone just came together,” he says.
Temporary mobile generators were quickly put in place and will be used over the course of the next few days as final repairs proceed. Those repairs, Walter says, may require two or three more brief power outages. Six elevator doors need repair, he adds, and one escalator was still not functioning as of Sunday evening.
BU Police sent three emergency alert messages to residents of Warren Towers, first advising students that 700 Commonwealth Ave. was being evacuated because of a blown transformer, then advising students that the building was ready for reoccupation shortly after midnight. Students were encouraged to wait out the power outage in the George Sherman Union, but many remained on the sidewalks of Comm Ave.
Women’s rowing team member Celestina Leon (CAS’12) says she was returning from rowing practice and looking forward to taking a shower when she learned that her dorm had been evacuated.
“I stood outside CAS for about two hours,” she says. “No one knew when we’d be let back in, so I finally went to a friend’s place. I got the message that we could go back at 12:28.”
Manpreet Kalra (COM’12) was writing a term paper, when her computer suddenly shut down. “People started coming out in the hall and asking each other if they had lost power too,” she says. “Then we stood on Comm Ave for five hours, which was too bad because this is the week we really had to work. I’ve lost a lot of time. Plus, the whole process was so exhausting that when it was over, I just wanted to sleep.”
Kelly Brescia (COM’12) also became aware of a problem when her computer suddenly went dark. She tried to find out what was going on from her RA and others, but no one had an answer. Once she was out of the building, Brescia says, she waited out the evacuation on Comm Ave, frustrated by a lack of information.
“At one point I counted 10 fire trucks,” she says. “But no one had any idea how long we would be there. It would have been nice to know more about what was happening.”
Art Jahnke can be reached at email@example.com Comments