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January 31, 2007

Purdue campus loses power when circuit breaker trips

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Most of the Purdue campus lost power for about 30 minutes Wednesday (Jan. 31) morning when workers inadvertently tripped a circuit breaker, causing the four boilers at the university's power plant to shut down.

Joseph Mikesell, senior director of engineering utilities and construction for Purdue, said the high-voltage crew was completing repairs on a circuit when the breaker was tripped at about 10 a.m.

The Purdue Memorial Union was evacuated when the fire alarm was triggered by the power outage, Mikesell said. As a precaution, an ambulance also was dispatched to the Wade Utility Plant on the south end of campus because of the loud noise caused by the immediate release of steam from the boilers.

"When the boilers shut down, the high-pressure steam automatically is released through relief vents on the roof of the plant," Mikesell said. "It was as loud as several jet engines starting up. But no employees were ever in any danger from the accidental shutdown of the boilers."

Mikesell said power was restored to several areas of campus in about 30 minutes and all of campus had power before noon.

Steve Tally, media relations manager for Information Technology at Purdue, said administrative and teaching computer systems switched to backup power and continued to function with only a few minor issues. Core telephone and Internet networking systems also switched to back-up power.

"Research computing systems were affected, however, and our technical staff members are working to determine the impact of the power outage on research projects," Tally said. "We will continue to provide information to users about all of these systems as it becomes available."

The Wade Utility Plant, which was built with a single boiler in 1961, uses four boilers to produce 600,000 pounds of steam per hour, generating heating, cooling and electricity for more than 90 percent of the campus.

Writers:Phillip Fiorini, (765) 496-3133,

Marydell Forbes, (765) 496-7704,

Sources:Joseph Mikesell, (765) 494-7327,

Steve Tally, (765) 494-9809,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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