Power outage at Capitol, St. Peter

For Principal Joe Gulino and the students and faculty at St. Peter Catholic School, the loss of electricity for a little more than an hour ended up being “no biggie.”

“Everybody was making arrangements for what they were going to do for the rest of the day,” Gulino said Monday afternoon, “and then the lights went (back) on.”

Ameren Missouri spokesman Mike Cleary said a switch failed in a circuit that delivers electricity to the Capitol complex.

And, while St. Peter School lost power for just an hour, the Capitol was out for about 2 1/2 hours.

If it had happened next year, a new emergency generator quickly would have restored electric service to Missouri’s Capitol.

But the state still is upgrading the 90-year-old building’s electric wiring to accommodate that backup power source, so the Capitol was without electricity from 11:08 a.m. until about 1:30 p.m.

In addition to the Capitol and St. Peter’s, Cleary said, the Truman Building also lost power for a time.

Kelvin Simmons, Missouri’s commissioner of administration, said Monday, “It’s hard to tell exactly how you quantify” how much work was disrupted by the outage.

“I was right here in the commissioner’s office,” Simmons added. “I had the Blackberry going, and the phones going.

“Most people had their phones — (but) in a lot of cases, they did not have the ability to fire up their computers.”

Gulino said the outage hit St. Peter’s during the first lunch period.

“It didn’t affect food because it was all prepared,” Gulino noted. “Even the ice cream, they had ready ahead of time.

“What it did affect was dishwashing, so we just pulled out the old Styrofoam plates, and everybody went from there.”

The skies already were overcast by the time the power went out, so teachers opened the window shades to let in more light, got their flashlights ready for an emergency, and continued teaching as best they could.

“Basically, it was a minor emergency, where they got to think about, ‘What are we going to do?’ — without doing the disaster kind of stuff,” he said. “I said to everybody, ‘Just relax.’

“We had to walk the halls because our intercom was out — we just told everybody the basic situation, and said, ‘If you need anything, just send two students down to the office, and we’ll take care of whatever you need.’

“(But) Nobody needed anything.”

The Associated Press reported some state employees left the dark Capitol until electricity was restored, while others used the break as an opportunity for exercise — walking laps through the dim hallways.

While disruptive, Simmons said, a loss of power sometimes just happens.

“You’ve got to think about this and put it into perspective,” he explained. “The Capitol, when it was built (in 1913-17), I’m sure did not contemplate computers and phones and Blackberries and the kinds of things that our staff has today.

“So, over a period of time you have to upgrade your grid (and) continue to upgrade your electrical wiring, so that it suits your modern-day electricity needs.”

Monday’s outage was another reminder for the state to finish its rewiring project, so the backup generator — expected to be operational next year — can take over and keep meeting the Capitol’s electric needs.

“We’re moving in that direction,” Simmons said.

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