November 25, 2020

Update: Police and Fire Department respond to UC transformer explosion

The Webster Groves Police and Fire Departments responded to a transformer explosion Tuesday morning. The transformer, situated at the University Center parking lot, exploded at approximately 8:15 a.m. according to a witness. Sue McBride, a Sodexo employee, recalled hearing a load boom followed by two pops. The transformer began to smoke shortly after.

An Ameren UE employee and Webster University public safety employee assess the transformer outside the University Center. PHOTO BY BRITTANY RUESS

McBride alerted Public Safety. An officer responded and pulled the fire alarm, evacuating the UC.

McBride said when she had went to check the UC boiler room, it had filled with white smoke. Another witness said the lights flickered inside the UC when the transformer went out.

“I just wanted to get my kids out,” McBride said.

Mike Jannings, Webster Groves firefighter and EMT, said WGFD responded to incident by 8:25 a.m.

Check back with the Journal for more updates on this developing story.

UPDATE 9:40 a.m.: Susan Kerth, Webster University spokesperson, said Ameren UE is investigating the situation with the WGFD.  All activities in the building are cancelled until the situation is resolved.

“It does not appear there is any danger,” Kerth said in an email.

UPDATE 10:09 a.m.: Evacuation of the UC is expected to last several more hours. It has been determined that the transformer is the university’s and does not belong to Ameren UE. Schaeffer Electric was called to repair the transformer, Barbara O’Malley, Webster University associate vice president and chief communications officer, said in an email.

UPDATE 11:06 a.m.: Kerth said in an email, “The faulty transformer has been assessed and repairs will take place after building business hours. Electricity has been temporarily rerouted so that the University Center building can be safely brought back online and immediately reopened.”

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