Damage To At Least 40% of MSU's Main Buildings Due to Power Outage and Freezing Temps
Update Tuesday, 2:50 p.m.
Murray State University's main campus will be closed again Wednesday. MSU officials say at least 40% of MSU's major buildings suffered significant damage due to frozen pipes and equipment.
Spokesperson Catherine Sivills says crews are still making rounds through buildings to assess the damage.
"As soon as we know the extent of the damage, we will make a determination on re-opening," Sivills said.
Murray State shutdown power to the main campus last night at the request of the TVA to help meet extremely high demand due to the arctic temperatures. MSU has a generator in place to carry enough load to prevent such problems from occurring. But, that generator malfunctioned last night. MSU has an "interruptible contract" with the TVA which allows the TVA to require MSU to reduce its electricity usage. Sivills says MSU receives "significant" savings for this contract.
UPDATE Tuesday, 12:25 p.m.
The Tennessee Valley Authority has notified all of its customers with interruptible service contracts that they can return to normal power usage. This includes Murray State University, which began restoring power after 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.
TVA's power system passed a critical demand period early Tuesday from the bitter cold wave and electricity use is coming down.
MSU assistant vice president for communications Catherine Sivills said although power has been fully restored, the cold snap caused damage to pipes and university vehicles. The damage is currently being assessed by MSU facilities management.
Sivills said there is a possibility the university will not be able to reopen Tuesday. She said it's unclear if the university will be back to business as usual Wednesday.
UPDATE 10:35 p.m.
MSU facilities officials are having problems with alternate power systems for residential colleges, the wellness center and Winslow Dining Hall. The 37 students currently staying on campus, not including athletes, are being moved off campus to warm housing. MSU athletics is making arrangements for athletes who need housing.
UPDATE 7:05 p.m.
Murray State's unexpected power outage tonight has been ordered by the Tennessee Valley Authority. TVA officials say that shutdowns are ordered to customers with interruptible service contracts. Murray State has such a contract. In times of extremely high demand TVA can order MSU to shut down power with as little as five minutes notice.
TVA called MSU at 5:45 p.m. to order the shutdown. MSU, though, has protected buildings according for student safety. According to Chief Facilities Officer Kim Oatman MSU has a generator to power residential colleges, Winslow Dining Hall and the wellness center.
The power outage affects the CFSB Center which had a lady racer's basketball game scheduled to take place tonight. The game has been rescheduled for February 19th.
MSU spokeswoman Catherine Sivills says the university was aware of the possibility the TVA may require a shutdown, but in any case the TVA only provides five minutes notice of a shutdown. MSU will remain closed tomorrow because Sivills says the TVA can't guarantee the TVA will be able to return power to MSU until demand lessens.
The Tennessee Valley Authority is expecting near-record energy demand from users due to the arctic cold snap.
Demand is expected to reach 31,000 megawatts Monday night and 32,000 Tuesday night, which are just under TVA winter record levels. However, TVA officials don't expect current demand to reach record-breaking levels.
Spokesman Duncan Mansfield says although the bulk of TVA’s systems remain stable, the energy provider started preparing for the demand last week.
“We took in house action to indefinitely suspend all non-essential maintenance activities to minimize risk of power interruptions," Mansfield said. "Late last night we initiate what we call a Power Supply Alert which is a precautionary declaration that an unexpected shutdown could reduce TVA’s power supply reserves.”
Mansfield recommends customers keep the thermostat around 68 degrees as well as open blinds and curtains when it’s sunny to keep the house warm while lowering power usage.
The TVA distributes power to 155 local power companies which serve 9 million residents throughout the region.