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Extreme heat forces series of Haury Hall blackouts
The oldest residence hall on Bethel's campus lost power five times in a week, leaving students in limbo.
Haury Hall was hit the hardest by extreme heat at the beginning of the semester as consistent 100-degree-plus temperatures caused power outages.
Between Aug. 19 and 25, the building experienced several blackouts, knocking mini-fridges and a main electrical feed temporarily out of commission. Haury Hall, the oldest residence hall on the Bethel College campus, houses new and transfer students — primarily from the freshman class.
During the extreme heat, air conditioning units struggled to keep up with the above-average temperatures and an increased number of freshmen (and thus an increased number of electrical appliances) in the residence hall this year.
“The power outages are a result of more power being used in part of Haury than what we have available,” said Adam Akers, director of facilities. “This is causing one of the main electrical feeds to the building to shut off. The extreme temperatures that we have experienced have caused the air conditioning units to work even harder and less efficiently than they would on a cooler day.”
Because of this and the need to support more appliances than previously expected, the power shut off five times during the span of a week. This happened twice in one day and three more times in the following days.
“I was taking a nap during one of them,” said Taryn Paulino, a freshman from Bennington. “They were super noticeable and happened more often than I thought they would. Like, surprisingly so. We realized how serious it was when we were asked to unplug and power down all ‘unnecessary’ items.”
Haury Hall — which has recently been the center of demolition rumors — was built in 1957. Since then, this kind of issue hasn’t occurred due to extreme heat and an overload of students. The situation was confusing for all involved, students and staff alike.
“The first time the power went out, no one was really communicated with,” said Kylie Mercer, a freshman from Kalispell, Mont. “They literally said … they didn’t know what was wrong … and how long it was going to be out for.”
While this is a first for Haury Hall, maintenance has a plan to return Haury to normal so this doesn’t happen if the temperatures were to rise again. This involves working with the existing equipment to create a more balanced electrical situation.
“We will be working to rewire a couple of breaker panels in the building to change where they get their power from,” said Akers. “This will allow us to better balance the power usage out in the building between the two main electrical feeds coming into the building. [It] will require several hours with power off in several parts of the building.”
With temperatures predicted to continue dropping below 100, the risk of this happening again also considerably drops.
“With the temperatures being cooler we should not have as great of a chance of this happening, and once we can get the breaker panels moved over to the other electrical service it should eliminate this from happening as often as it has been,” said Akers.