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Patrons forced to evacuate RPAC due to pressure tank problem

30 p.m. Sunday, April 3, 2011.

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RPAC staff evacuated patrons from the building Sunday night at about 8:30 and it remained closed until about 9:30. 

RPAC employees, stationed at the various entrances around the building, kept students from re-entering the building.

“They’re sweeping the building, but until we find out, I won’t be able to tell you anything,” said one employee who stood in front of the Physical Activities & Education Services building (no RPAC employees would give their names for this story). “It went off in aquatics.”

The aquatic center, which normally closes at 10 p.m., did not reopen after the evacuation.

Another RPAC employee finally clarified to The Lantern that the issue was with the pressure tanks underneath the aquatics center.

“We have a problem with the pressure tanks under the building and we need (pedestrians) out of the area until the fire department tells us otherwise,” the second RPAC employee said.

Heated pools such as the one at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion have large pressure tanks underneath it to help maintain an average temperature of 77 degrees to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the website of the Federation Internationale de Natation, an international competitive swimming body. If the temperature gets too high, pressure increases and can lead to a possible explosion.

Although the RPAC staff would not comment and University Police said it could not comment until Monday morning, students quickly took to Twitter to report the building shaking, most likely as a result of the pressurized and trembling tanks.

Employees provided the underdressed with socks to fight the chills.

Jeff Kula, a graduate student in electrical engineering, said the evacuation was similar to a fire alarm.

“The emergency alarms went off and they made an announcement,” Kula said. “They just said to leave for precautionary reasons.”

Although employees kept students at a distance from the building, groups of campus police could be seen milling about inside the building.

Despite the potentially dire consequences of such an event, the mood was light around most of the entrances. At the west entrance near Lincoln Tower Park, the crowd of evacuees heckled visitors that hadn’t heard the news.

“Don’t go in! Don’t go in!” they shouted as a girl approached the entrance. She looked at them oddly, as if it were a late April Fool’s joke. As she turned back to the entrance, an RPAC employee stopped her, prompting a voice to yell, “He just saved your life, dude.”

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