EUGENE, Ore. -- A series of explosions hit an underground utility system Monday at the University of Oregon, plunging several student dormitories and other buildings into darkness as crews scrambled to restore power.
Nobody was hurt, but about 3,000 students living on campus had no power in their rooms, university officials said. Campus police stepped up patrols, and the university gave away flashlights. Officials planned to bring in generators, but the task wasn't complete by evening.
University officials said electrical equipment overheated, causing circuits to ignite and melt.
The blasts were audible above the ground and from several hundred feet away. A video clip from the campus showed puffs of smoke coming from a manhole cover, and university officials said smoke also was visible inside the university health building, which was evacuated and closed for the rest of the day. A slight smell of burning rubber lingered outside for hours.
It could take days to permanently repair electrical circuits, university spokeswoman Julie Brown said.
Without electricity to power a television or charge a laptop, students were given additional entertainment options Monday, including a watch party for the college football championship game.
In a dormitory near the blast, pitch-black stairwells became obstacles for students trying to get to class, said Camila Rowland, a freshman majoring in psychology.
"We're using flashlights now," she said. Some cafeterias were closed, Rowland added, so those with power were unusually packed with students. And officials told residents to try to limit their use of bathroom facilities, she said.
The Register-Guard reported that students from two residence hall complexes trekked to other buildings Monday to use the Internet, charge their electronics or shower. Showers in the university's recreation center were made available until 11:30 p.m. for students in affected dorms.
Starting around 10 a.m., about five blasts issued from the tunnel system where power to university buildings is distributed, followed by a series of explosions over a half hour, said campus police spokesman Kelly McIver.
When the blasts started, two electrical workers were nearby in the tunnel system, but it's unknown whether they had anything to do with the explosions, McIver said.
"They exited the tunnel quickly and were not hurt," he said.
Law student Patrice Bishop-Foster said she was listening to music and heard a popping noise, and it took a few seconds to register that the noise wasn't part of the song. The lights flickered in the gym, she said.
The university has about 24,600 students. The outage affected the southwest portion of the 295-acre campus in Eugene.
"We are working as quickly as possible to safely restore all power to affected areas of campus," George Hecht, associate vice president for campus operations, said in a statement.
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The Oldest Dorm
The College of William & Mary was established in 1693, making it one of the oldest universities in America. <a href="http://www.wm.edu/about/history/historiccampus/wrenbuilding/index.php" target="_hplink">The Wren Building</a>, built between 1695 to 1700, was the first building to be constructed and housed the master and the president. The students did not live on campus until 1723, when Brafferton Hall dormitory was built. (Photo credit: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wren_1859_william_and_mary.jpg" target="_hplink">Wikimedia Commons</a>)
The Founding Fathers' Dorm
According to legend, Founding Fathers John Adams, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Elbridge Gerry and James Otis were all residents of Harvard University's Massachusetts Hall. The building, which still survives today, was <a href="http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/10/the-newest-live-in-the-oldest/" target="_hplink">built in 1720</a> and was designed to house the growing student population. Today the president's office is located on the first floor, while the fourth floor houses freshmen.
First Women's Dorms
Historically, universities in America were separated by gender. Women's colleges were created to educate women. Wellesley College, which boosts of alumnae such as Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton, is just one example.
African American Dorms
Similar to women, African Americans were forced into separate living quarters in colleges. One example is Penn State, which had an unofficial housing policy until 1946 banning African Americans from living in white students' dorms. The university actually created a specific dorm for those few African American students called <a href="http://www.collegian.psu.edu/archive/2012/04/23/ceremony_honors_first_black_dorm_on_campus.aspx" target="_hplink">Lincoln Hall.</a> From the 1930s until the 1950s, the dorm housed about eight black male students.
The 70s saw a new wave of dormitory architecture. These unfortunate dorms, which are still widely used today, are identifiable by their cinderblock wall interior and harsh exteriors. (Photo credit: ISU Housing)
Greek Life Dorms
Greek life has existed on college campuses since <a href="http://www.elon.edu/e-web/students/greek_life/glhistory.xhtml" target="_hplink">1750s</a>, and the sorority and fraternity houses often provided alternative dorm options for the members. This living situation is known to have some drawbacks though, as greek life has a reputation for revelry.
Though dorms have advanced -- they are co-ed and integrated -- most college freshmen still live in a double shared with a person of the same gender. While the rooms are often not impressive, students experience more perks as they gain seniority, such as suites or apartments.
Today some dorms have become so luxurious that they resemble high-tech hotel rooms. Unsurprisingly, MIT is included on that list.
Scripps College takes advantage of its sunny California location, giving its all-female student body fairy tale dorms. The college is listed on <a href="http://www.forbes.com/2010/03/01/most-beautiful-campus-lifestyle-college.html" target="_hplink">Forbes</a> as one of the most beautiful campuses.
Though there are many competitors, the University of California Irvine might win for most luxurious dorms. The Vista Del Campo dorm even advertises a <a href="http://www.housing.uci.edu/photo/album.asp?album=39" target="_hplink">"resort style swimming pool, jacuzzi, movie theater, game room, fitness center, and computer lab.</a>" (Photo credit: UC Irvine Housing)