Most power on campus back to normal; some buildings remain without power

Students and instructors alike were seen trying to get into Dwinelle Hall today, despite multiple campus emails saying it was still closed.
Carli Baker/Senior Staff
Students and instructors alike were seen trying to get into Dwinelle Hall today, despite multiple campus emails saying it was still closed.

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UPDATED 4:33 p.m. — Although power has been restored to most of UC Berkeley after an explosion and a subsequent campuswide evacuation, 11 buildings remain without power as of Tuesday afternoon.

Students should assume classes held in those buildings are canceled, according to a statement released by UC Berkeley. According to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, 113 classes were canceled today.

The nonoperational buildings include Alumni House, Bancroft Library, California Hall, Central Heating Plant, Doe Library, Durant Hall, Dwinelle Hall, Dwinelle Annex, Edwards Track (East and West areas), Haas Pavilion and the Office of Environment, Health & Safety facility.

Backup generators are being installed at Dwinelle Hall, Bancroft Library, Doe Library and California Hall, Mogulof said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. The other seven buildings will remain off the campus grid until the campus has fully assessed the damage.

“We don’t want to reconnect it for fear that we may bring everything else crashing down again,” he said.

At an earlier press conference Monday, Mogulof reiterated that the power outage that occurred at 4:30 p.m. was caused by damage to cables caused by vandals who were attempting to steal copper crucial to the campus’s power system. However, he said whether this damage was the direct cause of the explosion is still being determined.

Mogulof called the damage to the wiring “extensive” and said it was much worse than officials had initially believed when discovered late last week.

He also said that the explosion, which occurred just outside California Hall about 6:40 p.m., happened when the team was bringing power back to campus.

The campus is taking steps to increase the security of the copper substation where the vandals damaged the wiring, Mogulof said. He added that the facility is within half-mile to a mile radius of the explosion.

“It was unprecedented,” Mogulof said. “There wasn’t anything to suggest that we had that sort of vulnerability. We’re in a new world here where people are stealing copper out of the university’s electrical grid. We have to adapt to what the new normal looks like.”

Mogulof said that the robbers had a “highly sophisticated” understanding of where one could access the sort of copper found in the substation.

The vandals “chose a point that was secluded, that was not visible, that wasn’t regularly visited,” he said.

Officials assured members of the community it was safe to return to campus Tuesday morning in an email from Chancellor Nicholas Dirks. The email said that power to the majority of the campus buildings was restored Monday night using a “methodical approach to ensure that each building is safe to occupy.”

“Because of this method of restoration, the campus has a high level of confidence that the campus is safe,” the message said.

Mogulof said that the restoration is not a “one-stop deal” and that the campus will continue to monitor the situation.

ASUC President DeeJay Pepito posted a statement on Facebook acknowledging unease over the fact that most classes are still in session despite concerns for students’ mental and emotional well-being.

“Several people were injured from the explosion, many students were stuck in elevators for hours, campus libraries were closed, and several of the residence halls … were impacted by the power outage, all factors that produced a chaotic and stressful environment,” she said in the statement. “The uncertainties of safety made studying extremely difficult and the expectation from our University to resume with regular activity and retain properly under such unique high stress and anxiety is unacceptable.”

Pepito noted that she has been in contact with the UC Berkeley administration this morning and has asked Associate Dean of Students David Surratt to send psychologists from the Tang Center to the residence halls.

Students should check in with their academic departments for further information about classes and rescheduling, and employees who normally work in those buildings should check in with their supervisors about reporting to work, according to the statement from the campus.

UC Berkeley professor of economics Martha Olney said that while the building closures were an inconvenience, the campus did an efficient job of making alternate plans.

“I thought the classroom scheduling office was on top of things,” she said. “I appreciated their quick service, and this is good preparation for the (next) earthquake.”

Here is a Google Map pinpointing where the non-operational buildings are located:


View this map on Google Maps.

Adrianna Dinolfo and Lydia Tuan contributed to this report.
Sara Grossman is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @saragrossman.