This article will be updated as The Tech learns more. Check The Tech’s storify for more information: http://storify.com/thetech/mit-during-the-cambridge-blackout
MIT, Harvard, and the surrounding areas lost power from 4:26 to 6:37 p.m. today. The outage threw the Institute into darkness — classes were canceled, T service was delayed, and police were dispatched to direct traffic. Emergency power remained on in dormitories and around campus.
The problem is thought to be related to a transmission line in the area, said Michael Durand, NStar spokesman, to The Boston Globe. Nearly 17,000 customers were estimated to be without power.
Around the Institute
All non-essential power was cut around campus. Lights remained on in dormitory hallways, though rooms were dark. Many lights in the Infinite were out, and street lamps around MIT were also off. According to an email from James Reed, the area director for Next House, dining remained open “with limited selections” during the outage, and wifi was available.
MIT Medical shut down normal services early and switched to Urgent Care. Diane L. Magnuson, Manger of Diversity and Inclusion for the medical department, said they would have done this anyway at 5 p.m. The MIT Pharmacy, which usually closes at 7 p.m., also shut down early because of the outage. Besides the early closures, everything was running smoothly, she said.
TCC Stata and the other daycare facilities around campus have backup generators that were in service this evening. Parents came to pick up their children early, and the daycares did not experience any problems.
Hundreds of students wandered about the Infinite, sitting in the few lit corners and working on laptops. Many chose to watch the impromptu shows in the Infinite, such as the crop of dancers who spontaneously started dancing around 5:30 p.m. The MIT Chamber Music Society was singing in lobby 7 around 4:45 p.m. Asked if the outage was good for business, they laughed “I think so,” said Anthony Thomas. “No one is in class.”
Indeed, classes were canceled at nearly all levels. The 6.867 (Machine Learning) test was canceled among a few other exams. A number of PE classes and varsity practice was canceled as the Z Center remained dark. W20 was evacuated and locked. MITSO rehearsed.
3.091 (Introduction to Solid-State Chemistry), which is slated to have a midterm tomorrow, had its review session moved to 8-102 so students could prepare in spite of the outage. Dozens of students crammed into the glass-walled Course III lab while their peers milled about outside.
According to a previous email from Dennis Collins, director of residential life and dining, during an emergency MIT’s cogeneration plant would initially go down, activating the emergency generators. While the cogeneration plant should be able to restart within a few hours, those in the northwest area of campus who do not rely on the cogeneration plant may be on emergency power for a longer time.
John DiFava, director of facilities and chief of police, mentioned that Cogen was having issues this morning, though the nature of these issues was unclear.
When asked for comment by The Tech, a crackly voice from the intercom of Cogen said they were “having a plant shutdown right now,” and that they had no time to talk.
A text message alerting community members of the power outage was sent out at 5:26 p.m. Nate Nickerson, director of MIT communications, said that MIT’s main goal “is responding to entrapments.”
“Life and safety is our top priority,” he said, citing people trapped in elevators and other locations. An elevator maintenance worker was seen opening an elevator in the student center shortly before evacuations around 4:30 p.m.
Katie Barker, a teacher for an MIT ESL class, was in the middle of teaching when the power went out. She had an emergency light in the room, so the class continued though she canceled her evening class.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said. “It’s strange because there was no storm or anything. It’s like the apocalypse.”
Kendall Square was inundated with evening commuters trying to get home. Many travelers were debating between the T, the bus, or a cab.
“I can take the bus home, so I was hoping that wouldn’t be so bad,” said Mario Tate, who works in Kendall Square. “But traffic is horrible.”
Alan Smith, the general manager at the Marriot Hotel in Kendall, said that the hotel had generators powering emergency lighting in hallways, stairwells, and the lobby. They were passing out glowsticks for guests to use in their rooms.
“Guests are very calm,” he said, “As soon as we know what’s happening I plan on making an announcement over the PA system so that guests are informed.”
The Clover food truck saw an increase in customers during the outage. Shawn Salzberg, a second year master’s student in the media lab, was waiting for his dinner near the truck. “I was in lab working on my computer when it kind of started to buzz and then the lights went out,” he said. “This is kind of epic.”
“I planned on cooking tonight, but now with no power I learned an important survival tip — when the electricity goes out the food trucks are still open,” he said while waiting for his order.
Twitter rumors swirled about a deer who had been struck near the Kendall Tunnel and caused the trouble.
“I heard some crazy story about a deer being run over by the train but I find that hard to be true,” said Lionel Mathelin, and MIT employee in Course 16.
The rumor seems to be false. Dan Riviello, Cambridge police spokesman, said to Cambridge Local “We’re getting a report that it’s a transformer that blew in Central Square. We spoke to someone from the Red line and no one said anything about a deer.”
@MBTAdeer, a twitter feed supposedly from the dead deer, surfaced on Thursday night. It has over 200 followers.
Two Green Line trains did collide this morning at the Boylston Street station. Three dozen people were taken to hospitals, and nearly 200 passengers were estimated to be on board. Neither car was derailed, and no heavy damage was visible. This incident is not believed to be related to the power outage.
Students should call the MIT police at 617-253-1212 if they are having any safety issues.
Sara Hess, Anne Cai, Stan Gill, John A. Hawkinson, Greg Steinbrecher, and Bruno B. F. Faviero contributed reporting to this article.