Six-hour-long power outage hits the Aston, nearby buildings

For about six hours Monday night, residents of the Aston and other buildings between N and L streets and 21st and 24th streets were in the dark.

Pepco, D.C.’s electricity provider, regained power at about 11:15 p.m. after electricity went out at about 5:30 p.m. Pepco Spokesperson Camille Smith said a combination of maintenance and construction in the lower West End neighborhood caused the outage.

“One of (the sources) was down for routine maintenance, and at M and 21st streets, construction caused a bunch of other (sources) to crash, so the whole area was on three (sources),” Smith said. She added that the remaining three power sources were in danger of becoming damaged from handling the whole grid on their own, and Pepco shut down the grid in response.

At 8:20 p.m. an alert was posted on the “GW Campus Advisories” Web site directing students living in the Aston to leave the residence and go to the Marvin Center for further instructions. University officials said residents cannot stay in a building without power because the disabled fire system posed a safety risk.

GW Housing Programs staff and emergency personnel assisted nearly 150 displaced students and six permanent Aston residents in the Marvin Center. Tara Woolfson, director of Student Judicial Services, helped the displaced students.

GW employees recorded the names and cell phone numbers of Aston residents in order to contact them once temporary room assignments were arranged. Only two students used the reassignment service instead of staying with friends while the power was out.

“We take direction and work to make sure that students have places to stay,” she said. “It will go smoothly, it’s the coordination of a lot of departments, but we will do it as quickly as we can to get everyone everything they need.”

The University Police Department’s phone line was available to students for updates on the Aston’s power status, Woolfson added.

Senior and Aston resident Caitlin Cahill said she was in her room when the grid went down. “There was a big noise, and the power went out,” she said. “I waited for a while to see if it would come back on, but it didn’t so I went to Gelman to camp out.”

Cahill said she was surprised that there were no emergency lights in the residence hall, which she described as “pitch black.” She said she is upset about possibly ruined groceries in her refrigerator and is staying with friends off campus.

Other students were also surprised with the lack of emergency lights. They said that although UPD helped them retrieve their belongings and exit the building, the lack of any lighting was unsettling.

Junior Joshua Lederman, who lives on the Aston’s ninth floor, said he plans on staying in the library for the night.

“There weren’t any (emergency lights) and that’s a real safety hazard, Lederman said. “Stuff happens, but I figure, ‘what if there’s a fire?'”

Senior Ashley Boeri said she heard about the returned power at about midnight. “It’s tough because the only place you can find out about the power is online,” she said. The University “handled it pretty well,” she added. “I have two tests and a total of six classes tomorrow so I’m so happy to go back (to my room).”

-Hadas Gold and Alex Ellis contributed to this report.

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