A bit after nine this morning a crew from CL&P was at Bulkeley High School, performing some form of 'routine' work in the transformer vault. Something very not routine happened when one of the transformers exploded. A female member of the crew apparently took the blast literally in the face; she's now at the burn unit a Bridgeport Hospital with third degree burns on her face and hands. We're at T+6:30 from the time of the explosion, so there is no word yet on the cause.
The fire that resulted from the explosion generated a lot of heat, and massive amounts of black, toxic, sooty smoke. You could smell it all over town. The school was safely evacuated, the only injuries being a handful of students who suffered asthma attacks (they are all OK). The CL&P workers are not OK, with the woman in the worst shape of the three. The school has no power (duh), and parts of the city around the school are still powered down.
Now we get to my part in the day. Our leased fiber-optic network provider (Mode1) is a division of Northeast Utilities (parent of CL&P); they use the power conduits to bring their fiber into our buildings. Some of my team were able to enter the building around 1:00 PM to check on our equipment. They brought a charged UPS with them, were able to power up the core switches, and confirmed that our fiber got burnt up.
What this means is that nineteen sites (schools, libraries and fire houses) in the Southern third of the city have no network service. For the schools and libraries it also means that they have lost primary phone service (the Achilles Heel of VoIP). We spent a good portion of the morning calling school principals to make them aware of what was going on, and of what they had available to them in terms of phone service. Some schools were caught up in the blackout area around Bulkeley, so they only had emergency analog phones and cell phones. Others were merely victims of the network cutoff, and so had full in-building phones and limited out-going calling. When we called the schools that were in the dark, you could hear the chaos in the background and the Principals and Vice Principals working to keep things under control and somewhat orderly. Ultimately the district closed the all elementary schools early. I spent the entire day in crisis management.
Depending on when we can get access to the site for repairs, we could have new fiber in place tomorrow or over the weekend. We can get a generator to provide power to our equipment once the fiber is repaired. Restoration of main power is a big question. In fact, the whole equation hinges on when repair crews can get into the transformer vault to assess damage and commence repairs. I imagine that the Hartford Fire Marshal, and perhaps OSHA will want some time to crawl all over the accident scene before releasing it to the repair teams.
One thing this did is highlight our own lack of preparedness in terms of having the school emergency telephone numbers collected all on one sheet for easy access. We also found that some schools had "lost" their telephones (there's supposed to be one in the Principal's office and one with the Nurse, some schools have a third phone at the Custodian's office) and we're really in dire shape when the lights went out. There will certainly be things to discuss when we convene a post-mortem. Tomorrow will be an interesting day.
Coverage in the Hartford Courant here.
Story and video from WFSB (the local CBS affiliate) here