By Joel Wass and Jordan Press
With a winter storm already hammering the city and more snow on the way, Ryerson students were hoping for a snow day on Tuesday.
Instead, they got a blackout.
Campus clocks froze at 10:54 a.m., as lights went out across Ryerson’s campus. Classrooms, offices, hallways and cafeterias were left in the dark.
The blackout affected not only Ryerson but also the surrounding downtown area, from College to Queen streets, and from Victoria Street to University Avenue.
On the thirteenth floor of Jorgenson Hall, Vice-President Administration and Student Affairs Linda Grayson consulted with members of Ryerson’s emergency response teams and decided to close the school at 11:15 a.m., approximately 20 minutes after the blackout hit.
Following the decision, Ryerson security teams went across campus telling students to evacuate the university.
Doors were locked, and students arriving for class were told to go home.
The electricity started flowing again at 12:20 p.m., but Toronto Mayor David Miller stressed that the city would face periodic lapses in power.
According to Ryerson’s Director of Campus Planning and Facilities Ian Hamilton, backup generators kicked in and powered emergency lighting in some Ryerson buildings. Hamilton said that because Jorgenson Hall has a natural-gas powered generator, the building would have electricity as long there was natural gas flowing on campus.
The Library Building, the Sally Horsfall Eaton Centre, the Business Building, Kerr Hall and the Rogers Communication Centre managed to maintain their power because they all have diesel-powered generators. Those buildings have enough backup power to last four to eight hours, Hamilton said.
However, the rest of the buildings on campus rely on battery packs, which provide only a couple of hours of power.
Julia Lewis, Ryerson’s chief emergency officer, said that after the summer blackout, Ryerson made changes to its emergency response policy. They identified critical areas of the school and addressed any problems a blackout may cause.
She said the university’s response was quick and decisions were made promptly.
“I’m very impressed,” Lewis said about Ryerson’s response to the blackout. “A decision was made very quickly, which was very helpful to the community. All the resources available to us were in one central location.”
The Jorgenson Hall cafeteria staff made sure food didn’t go to waste, handing soup and pizza out to hungry students.
Cafeteria staff also hauled food and drinks up to the thirteenth floor for Lewis and members of the university’s administration.
RyeSAC, CESAR, Copyrite and other university services were shut down for the day, and all staff were sent home.
However, life in Pitman was the same as usual, said Pitman’s resident life facilitator, Lucy Jakupi.
“We’re fine, no problems,” she said. “We have enough power to sustain at least an eight-hour blackout.”
Pitman’s own generators kicked in minutes after darkness fell, and its cafeteria was ready to feed its more than 800 students.
Students in the ILLC residence on Mutual Street weren’t so lucky.
“That’s not really fair considering we pay more than those guys,” said Ian Ruthven, a second-year graphics student, about the fact that his residence went without power for nearly an hour and a half.
Ruthven was pissed about the power, but he laughed at how Torontonians reacted to the loss of light.
“This is nothing. I’m from Quebec. I experienced the ice storm. I lost power for two weeks,” said Ruthven referring to the 1998 ice storm that caused considerable damage there.
“[Toronto residents] are like ‘five centimetres? We better call in the army!’”