Tuesday, October 22, 2002
Power Outage Delays Start of Work for Attorneys on Bunker Hill
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A power outage yesterday delayed the start of the work week for hundreds of downtown lawyers and support staff who work in the north tower of the Wells Fargo Center.
The building houses several large and medium-size law firms, including Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Crosby, Heafy, Roach & May; and the general counsel of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The building lost power at approximately 8:20 yesterday morning when a circuit breaker “tripped” in the nearby Department of Water and Power vault, the building’s chief engineer, Jim Shipman said. The power was restored at 11:44 a.m., a spokesperson for the DWP said.
Many of the tenants chose to wait in the lobby where they remained “pretty calm,” Haston Pulley, a security console operator, said. Pulley, who was present during the power outage, estimated that as many as 250 people were waiting in the lobby for the power to resume.
The security staff employed by Langner Security was responsible for dealing with the crowd of professionals waiting to return to their offices. Pulley said that the group became “restless” after an hour of waiting, but never became “not agitated.”
The security made frequent announcements explaining that the power outage was due to electrical problems. Pulley said that people did not seem to be concerned that terrorism played a role in the situation.
Only the top 28 to 30 of the north tower’s 50 plus floors lost power, Shipman explained, and the south tower was not affected. It would take a “major catastrophe,” such as an earthquake, for both the north and south towers to lose power simultaneously because their power comes from separate sources, Shipman said.
The DWP spokesperson explained that the power outage was caused by a failed cable in the 34,000 volt transformer station located at the north tower.
An on-site generator provided limited emergency lighting on the affected floors and in the stairwells, and one elevator in each elevator bank was working, Shipman said.
Nevertheless, there were a number of “enormously frustrated tenants,” the vice president of public relations for the building’s owner Maguire Partners said.
Peggy Moretti estimated that 50 percent of the building’s tenants returned to their homes after waiting an hour for the power to be restored.
Others, like Ron St. John of Barton, Klugman & Oetting, chose to take the stairs. St. John’s office is located on the 37th floor.
“Once I started hitting the wall at 17, I had to stop and catch my breath,” St. John said. “It makes you think about those firefighters who went up in the World Trade Center.”
The managing partner at Barton’s local office, Tod Beebe, said that as a result of the power outage the firm “let down” its clients for a few hours. Four or five partners at the firm, including St. John, climbed the stairs, but found that the telephones and computers were not working because of the electrical problems.
Beebe, who did not brave the stairwell, said the loss of approximately 50 billable hours cost the firm nearly $100,000.
Beebe said he suspected the problems were related to the electrical work that the building’s engineers and the DWP were conducting over the weekend.
Shipman and a DWP spokesperson confirmed that all power in the building was shut off on Sunday while DWP performed a yearly maintenance check.
Electrical Engineer Associate Doug Kirby, the supervisor of the 20 person DWP response team said that it was impossible to know whether or not the latent cable problem was caused by the cleaning at the facility on Sunday, the DWP spokesperson said.
Mary Ruth Hughes, an associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, reached her office on the 49th floor via the elevator around nine, she said, only to find that the firm’s computer network was shut down along with the power.
Hughes, who couldn’t even check her email as a result of the power outage, said she ultimately decided to go home and walked down the stairs a few minutes after 11 a.m. “Everybody went home,” she said.
Over 200 Gibson attorneys are located in the firm’s downtown office and occupy eight floors in the north tower.
Janet Kwuon, the managing partner of Crosby, Heafey, Roach & May’s Los Angeles office, said that the firm, located on the 28th to 30th floors in the north tower, did not experience any major inconveniences due to the electrical problems.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company