Blame it on the squirrel: Sunday’s power outage

By Lucy Rudman
Junior Editor

On Sunday night, September 3, Sewanee experienced a campus-wide power outage that shut down power in the entire campus and downtown area. Sewanee students received an email through the LiveSafe app at 4:42 p.m. explaining that, “Duck River reports that the connection with TVA [Tennessee Valley Authority] has been lost.”

With daylight fading, multiple campus facilities, including McClurg Dining Hall, the Fowler Center, and DuPont library, sent out emails explaining that their facilities would close early citing the lack of “safe lighting.” It was unclear when power would return, although, in the same email that announced the cause, the University explained that, “Crews are en route to assess and begin working to restore power asap.”

In the meantime, student responses varied from feeling liberated to stressing as sunset approached, the lack of WiFi set in, and laptops and phones started dying. 

“I had a chemistry exam the next day,” Hayeon Ryou (C’23) explained, “and I left as soon as it happened. I was already stressed, and it was just another thing to stress me out more. My laptop was low on battery; it was a sign from God. My friends and I went to Tullahoma, to the nearest Starbucks.” 

Others expressed frustration at the length of the outage, hoping it’d be longer. 

“We all hoped it was going to get us out of class.” Alexa Fults (C’21) explained. “The library was closed. There was no way to charge our devices. There was no way to get food unless you have a car. How are you going to expect us to go to class? But it lasted just long enough for it to only be a small inconvenience.”

On campus, University departments, including Facilities Management, the Sewanee Police Department and the Office of Residential Life, scrambled to maintain order and safety during the outage.

“As we became aware that some of the ID card readers at residence hall entrances were not functioning properly during the outage, we coordinated with the proctors in those buildings to monitor the doors and ensure that residents would still be able to enter their buildings while the power was out,” explained Bobby Silk, the assistant director of Residential Life.  

“Normally, the ID card readers would switch to a battery back-up during a power outage, so we have shared information about the affected halls with Facilities Management so that they can address any issues with the batteries,” Silk said.

And the cause? According to Austin Oakes, assistant vice president of Facilities Management, A squirrel, who “made its way” into a piece of Duck River equipment.