Glitch causes power outage at USF

A campuswide power outage left some USF students, buildings and events in the dark Sunday afternoon.

A technical glitch with a transformer box in the USF area caused the widespread power outage, leaving USF and about 3,500 Tampa Electric Company (TECO) customers without power for more than two hours, said Rick Morera, spokesman for TECO.

Morera said TECO isn’t sure what caused the power outages that started at around 1 p.m., but the problem originated in the campus substation located on Fletcher Avenue.

“It looks like we had some kind of issue on a transformer at the USF substation,” Morera said. “We don’t know what it was, and that’s what caused the circuit that feeds those areas to go out.”

The USF Library, Athletics, Sun Dome, Marshall Student Center, academic buildings, residence halls and areas north and west of campus lost power.

The east side of campus was hit harder than the west side, said University Police spokeswoman Lt. Meg Ross. She said Shriner’s Hospital and the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center were unaffected.

Power was restored in some residence halls on campus for about a minute but then immediately shut down again before 3 p.m. TECO restored power at around 3:30 p.m.

“A lot of what we’re able to do is switch things around since the electrical circuits are aimed to provide service from different directions,” Morera said. “So a lot of the work could be done by just switching things around, which is what we did. A combination of that and actual work in the field.”

The power outage still caused some problems.

A USF women’s soccer game that started just after 1 p.m. continued despite the scoreboard freezing at 36:38 in the first half.

In the Sun Dome Corral, meanwhile, a USF volleyball match was canceled after the lights went out mid-match. To pass the time, players and students held a dance competition.

The student online database Blackboard shut down because the generators “failed to ignite and the servers crashed,” according to a notice on the Web site.

“Power is restored but the crash corrupted one of the file systems that the database needs to start,” the notice said.

AlliedBarton campus security evacuated the Library and locked the doors until power was restored on campus around 3:30 p.m., leaving many students waiting outside.

The only lights in the Library – as in most buildings – were emergency lights, said an AlliedBarton sergeant.

The sergeant said generators, which could last at least four hours, were used in most campus buildings during the power outage.

USF student Melissa Miletic said she was in the Library when the power went out.

“I was going to start on a project when the power went out,” said Miletic, a freshman with an undecided major. “There were a lot of people using computers and everyone was like, ‘Ah!’ I guess some people lost a lot of their stuff.”

Miletic left the Library to return to her dorm, where the power was also out. Generators were used for power until they shut off.

Maeghann Coleman, a freshman majoring in architecture, said she was in her Cypress A dorm when the power went out.

“I was on my computer and all of a sudden the lights went off and it got really hot in here fast,” Coleman said. “I was studying and I thought, ‘How am I going to study now?'”

As of Sunday afternoon, fewer than 100 customers were still without power, Morera said, though those people were not in the USF area. Morera said it’s too early to tell exactly what caused the substation to malfunction.

As of late Sunday night, the server crash had not been fixed and Blackboard remained down.

Additional reporting by Yaffi Hilili and Kristian Walden