Explosions reported near University Health Center, power outages reported across campus

Firefighters on the scene of an apparent explosion on campus Monday morning on the first day of class. The explosion in the maintenance tunnels caused power outages across campus. (Alex McDougall/Emerald)

Firefighters on the scene of an apparent explosion on campus Monday morning on the first day of class. The explosion in the maintenance tunnels caused power outages across campus. (Alex McDougall/Emerald)

Posted by Andy Rossback and Kirah Ingram on Monday, Jan. 7 at 10:16 am.

UPDATE: At 4:45 p.m., some University residence halls remained without power, including parts of the Walton Complex, Earl Hall and Straub Hall, according to a University press release.

“Heat, fire systems and lighting are necessary for a safe living environment,” Michael Griffel, director of University Housing, said in the press release. “As such, we are planning to provide lighting assistance and additional campus safety officer presence this evening for approximately 3,000 students impacted by this outage.”

Campus Operations is working to restore power to the affected buildings.


The University Health Center was evacuated Monday morning and students were told to avoid the area after explosions were heard near the Walton Complex, according to a University of Oregon text message alert.

Power outages were reported in the Walton Complex, Hamilton Complex, Carson Hall, Bean East, Earl Hall and Straub Hall. Agate Street was closed between 13th and 15th streets, according to another UO text message, but was reopened at 12:45 p.m.

Smoke was reported to be coming from around the maintenance tunnels. An Emerald reporter at the scene says a manhole cover between the health center and Walton has been smoking since around 10 a.m. She reported that firefighters appeared to be wearing oxygen tanks but had not yet taken action. A police officer at the scene was unable to comment.

UOPD spokesperson Kelly McIver told the Associated Press that there were two electrical workers in nearby maintenance tunnels at the time of the explosion but were able to exit the tunnel and were not hurt.

Reportsnow say that it may have been a transformer that blew.

The area that is affected.


University Housing’s Central Kitchen appeared to be temporarily shut down, and no food except for fruit is being served at Hamilton, Carson Dining and the LLC. Global Scholars Hall and Barnhart are serving food as usual.

Fire and Emergency logs indicate that as many as 10 emergency vehicles have responded to the health center. The initial report of the event came in at just before 10 a.m. University employees have told KVAL News that they believe the explosion “was because of a pipe leak of some kind inside the building.” The University’s Health Center voicemail said that “due to a campus infrastructure problem, the health center is closed.”

KMTR has reported that power is shut off to the entire campus, but there still appears to be power in the EMU.

The explosion reportedly occurred in the tunnels underneath campus, which carry electricity and other utilities to University buildings. Photo taken in October. (Alex McDougall/Emerald)

The power outage has brought down the server in the Computer Information Science department, according to one professor.

According to a campus press release from 2009, a new generator was installed in 2009 near the health center and to transfer generator power to the new transformer, a power outage was planned for the health center. The transfer failed and caused a campus-wide power outage. Power was restored to campus shortly after reports of fire alarms sounding and evacuations from Earl Hall, Straub Hall and the Volcanology Building.

UPDATE (8:01 p.m.): The LLC and Walton residences halls have power. Bean and Hamilton have yet to have their power restored.

  • Anon

    Looks like KEZI, not KVAL, was tweeting. Good summary coverage!

  • parent of UO student

    Is there heat in the dorms affected?

    • UOalum

      Nope. They hold their heat pretty well though. And it’s not that cold out.

      • parent

        The affected dorms have no hot water. The school should keep the dining halls open later so the kids in the affected dorms can have someplace light and warm.

  • Sally Slemons