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Blackout Affects Most of Institute

By Josh Hartmann

A seven-minute power outage caused havoc yesterday morning as computers, telephone systems, and air conditioning units failed across campus.

Despite the short duration of the outage, which took place shortly after 10 a.m., spokesmen for Information Systems said they were busy for much of the day bringing computers back up.

"We lost power to the Cray supercomputer and the IBM mainframe" used for administrative purposes, said David F. Lambert, manager for IS Data Center Operations.

"Pretty much we were out for an hour and a half," Lambert said late yesterday afternoon. "All of the gear is back up and rolling."

Commonwealth Energy Systems spokesman Michael O'Malley said 10,000 Cambridge customers lost power when a relay at a substation on Putnam Street failed.

"We believe it was an overcurrent situation which caused a relay to trip out in the Putnam Street substation," he said. "We had a crew that was working at the substation. They were able to reset the relay."

O'Malley noted that at the time, the total ComEnergy load was 826 megawatts. "That's the highest load we've seen so far this summer."

Generally, customers in the Central Square area lost power, O'Malley. About two-thirds of the MIT campus suffered from the blackout, according to Thomas E. Shepherd Jr., Physical Plant's Associate Director of Engineering and Utilities.

"It was generally to the west of Ames Street," Shepherd said. "I didn't here of any damage to any equipment."

Firefighters and campus police responded to several emergency calls as a result of the power failure. The calls were a result of alarm systems sending false alarms.