Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Last Wednesday morning, two conductors fell on Harvard Avenue, a street which runs by Roberts dormitory. Each line conducted 13 kilovolts, and they gave off dramatic orange sparks that attracted attention from the neighbors.
The incident report states that the fire department was dispatched at 3:25 AM. They blocked off the ends of the street to contain the sparking conductors. PECO arrived on location shortly thereafter, and the department cleared at 4:22 AM, after PECO had safely de-energized the lines. Assistant Fire Chief Bob Jones said that there were “no injuries, no fire, and no damage.” The reason that the conductors fell is not known. According to Jones, “wires sometimes just fail.”
Swarthmore’s own Rio Akasaka ’09, a member of the Swarthmore Fire and Protective Association, said that there was nothing remarkable about the incident, just that PECO took “longer than usual” to de-energize the conductors because the first place where they tried to cut the cable was not working.
Although the incident was routine for the Fire Department, Roberts residents were puzzled by the bright lights. J.J. England ’09 wrote in an e-mail, “I woke up to a loud cracking and buzzing sound with bright flashes illuminating my first floor room. I ran to find out what was going on and decided that the situation looked dangerous enough to get all of my things together in case we had to quickly evacuate the dorm. The flashes from the transformer lit everything up like day.” The photograph of the day was taken by England during the incident. Faith Pampel ’09 noticed that her room “was glowing red to a buzzing drone… Confused, I woke up my roommate and the only thing we could think of was that aliens were hanging out above Roberts.”