Transformer explosion causes 10-minute power outage

A transformer between High and Main streets exploded late Sunday night. (Photo by Brad Leuchte.)

A transformer explosion caused Framingham State University to lose power Sunday night.

The transformer exploded atop an electrical pole at the intersection of High and Main Streets.

An estimated 9 percent of Framingham, or 2,800 customers, lost power, according to Eversource, New England’s largest energy provider.

The explosion caused power surges around 9:20 p.m. A power outage that occurred around 9:30 p.m. lasted for about ten minutes before FSU generators turned on.

Warren Fairbanks, associate vice president of facilities and capital planning, explained the campus’ emergency generators come on whenever power goes out on campus.

“Emergency generators provide power for emergency lights, fire alarms and sprinkler systems,” Fairbanks said. “Some of the elevators are powered by the emergency generators, as well as the heating system. They’ll run until the power is restored.”

The generators are controlled in the boiler plant in the upper part of campus behind Whittemore Library.

Power was restored at about 10:30 p.m. when an Eversource employee repaired the transformer.

The generators on campus continued to run after the power was restored by Eversource.

Fairbanks said, “The boilers come on and go off automatically and when [power] is restored, the generators will continue to run. It’s a big diesel engine so it takes about 30 minutes to cool down.”

During the power outage, the RamTram and University Police were unable to use their radio systems. However, both services continued to operate.

Sgt. Joseph Woollard said,“Our job is to report and see students are safe” during power outages. “We also check to see if students are trapped in elevators.”

Junior Tyrone Rose was stuck in the elevator in Towers for four minutes.

Rose said he was taking the elevator down and when the lights started to flicker, he pressed the button to get down to the ground floor.

“Then it went pitch black for a minute and I pressed all the buttons and nothing worked,” said Rose. “So I’m like, ‘How long is this going to be?’ Because I do not like little spaces. Then the lights flickered back on and it brought me to the ground floor.”

Senior Kyle Torres said residents of his dorm, O’Connor Hall, socialized during the power outage.

“Everybody went out of their dorms and started talking to each other about what was happening in the hallways, and getting to know each other,” Torres said.

“It’s a shame that happened so close to the end of the semester, but it was such an oddly fun and exciting situation to see everybody coming out from their dorms and connecting to each other. It was like a 15-minute holiday party.”

The library temporarily evacuated students, but allowed them back into the building once the generators turned on.

Senior Emily Crocker, a student employee at Whittemore Library, explained the evacuation procedure for power outages.

“When power goes out for an extended period of time, we are told to evacuate the library, since there are so many small spaces for students to study in the library,” Crocker said.

“That could easily cause a safety issue. But this time, the power went out three times. After the second time, we evacuated. It was frustrating to deal with this since we are so close to finals week! Eventually, after the third time, the power came back on permanently and we were able to allow students back in,” she said.

Fairbanks said, “Our generators are in good shape.” He added, “They’re all relatively new. We’ve made an effort in the past six to seven years to replace them. The latest to replace is the McCarthy Center. They’re working well. They’re expensive pieces of equipment, and we want to make sure we keep them functional.”

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