U.Va. Suffers Electrical Blackout, But Little Damage in Windstorm

July 2, 2012 — A fast-moving storm Friday night that at times produced hurricane-force winds caused significant power outages, but no severe damage at the University of Virginia.

The University lost power around 9:30 p.m. Friday and back-up generators were used on Grounds and at the Medical Center.

"We had our communications systems on emergency power," said Marjorie L. Sidebottom, director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness. "Critical areas where backup generators are pre-deployed kicked in as designed, allowing departments to maintain operations until power was restored."

While emergency services and the Medical Center operated on generators, some sections of Grounds, such as the McCormick Road residence halls, remained without electricity until Saturday.

Kim Ferguson, director of Conference Services, said the University was hosting several sports camps, academic programs and adult conferences and those attendees had to shelter in place in the residence halls Friday night.

"We made sure that once people were in the residence houses, they stayed there," Ferguson said. "We did not want anyone out in the elements."

She said there were no injuries.

"All things considered, I think we were fortunate," she said. "The electricity went out about 9:30 p.m. Friday night and was coming back on Saturday afternoon, which made for a stuffy night on Friday."

Weekends are the busiest time for Conference Services, Ferguson said, because people are often leaving the previous week's conference on Saturday mornings and new ones arrive on Saturday afternoons. She said many of the people who stayed over Friday night were leaving on Saturday and the new arrivals came shortly before power was restored.

"It worked out well," she said "We had no complaints in transition."

Landscape superintendent Richard Hopkins said most of the damage to the University trees was "bits and pieces."

"But there were a lot of bits and pieces," he said.

He said a tree came down in the parking lot of the Medical Center's Northridge facility and another came down in a parking lot at the School of Law, but those were the only major losses.

Hopkins said no electric lines were down on Grounds and the branches that were blown from the trees did little damage.

"Most of them came down on the grass," Hopkins said. "There were a few things down in the road, but I came in on Friday night and cleared the roads myself, then we had a weekend crew working Saturday and Sunday and full crew on Monday."

Temperatures during the weekend were in the 90s.

"There was a not a lot we could do about the heat," Sidebottom said. "Once we determined that the Aquatic & Fitness Center could be operated, we opened that to community members to come and take showers."

Those in the area without power, whether members of the public or University community, can shower at U.Va.'s recreation centers. For locations and hours, click here. The University's Human Resource Department reminded supervisors that they are able to grant grace periods to employees experiencing storm-related problems at home.

Sidebottom said much of the power was restored on Sunday and almost everything was back up on Grounds by Monday. She said some areas experienced temporary blackouts while lines were being repaired.

A Heritage Theatre Festival matinee of "1776" at the Culbreth Theater had to be canceled on Saturday, but the evening performance was able to carry on.

Sidebottom said the University's Child Development Center shifted all its operations to its Copeley Road facility on Monday.

Some U.Va. Health System clinics are still affected; call to verify appointments.

– by Matt Kelly