Broken water pipe in Jester West Residence Hall causes hot water loss, power outages

Nataleah Small

A broken water pipe left some residents of Jester West Residence Hall without hot water and electricity for parts of Thursday and Friday. 

Rick Early, director of residential facilities operations for University Housing and Dining, said although minor leaks occur periodically, major breaks rarely happen. 

“I’ve been here 33 years. The last time I had to deal with a major break like this was about 1992,” Early said. “Something like this does not happen. It’s not your norm.”

On Thursday around 7:30 p.m., the facilities department was notified that water from the broken water pipe leaked into a Jester mechanical room, wetting the electrical switchgear and causing the electrical power to go out, Early said. 

Early said the power outage activated backup power, which turned on emergency lights in the hallways and stairwells and kept access card readers working. 

The hot water heater was fixed around 1:00 a.m on Friday, said Early, but the facilities crew was unable to fix the circulating pump until Friday morning, so hot water did not circulate through Jester until 11:00 a.m. 

Electrical power in Jester East was restored around 10:00 a.m. on Friday, Early said. Power was fully restored to the whole building by 10:30 p.m. on Friday, according to UT Housing’s Twitter. 

Timo Nelson, a radio-television-film freshman, said he heard about the water and power outages through a GroupMe message. When he arrived at the dorms around 11:00 p.m. on Thursday, his room was pitch black. 

“When I came home it was a little startling — kind of spooky actually,” Nelson said. “It was far quieter last night than any other night since I’ve been living here.”

On Friday at 5:30 p.m., Nelson said electricity had not yet been restored to his room on the fourth floor of Jester West. 

“I had to go to the library for most of the day to do homework and stuff because I haven’t had any power,” Nelson said.

University Housing and Dining sent Jester residents email notifications on Thursday and Friday with general updates on the water and electrical outages and specific updates regarding rooms, laundry areas and lounge spaces that were still affected by electrical outages Friday afternoon. 

Bacilio Hernandez, a health and society freshman, said he applauded the University for making the problem a priority and updating students throughout the process. 

“I’m glad the University does have the resources and the contacts to be able to have people even work overnight to try to fix this by morning,” Hernandez said. 

Overall, Early said students were very understanding throughout the process, and he heard very little negative feedback.

“The students are our life,” Early said. “Whenever something like this happens we know it’s hard for them, and we’ll do everything we can to get them back up and working so they can concentrate on their studies.”