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Sears/Willis Tower without power for days, flight ops moved to Elk Grove Village

Sears/Willis Tower without power for days, flight ops moved to Elk Grove Village

Old May 20, 20, 9:56 am
  #1  
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Sears/Willis Tower without power for days, flight ops moved to Elk Grove Village

https://www.chicagobusiness.com/comm...cause-flooding

Looks like United's main flight ops center is out of commission with Sears/Willis tower out of power for 3 days now, Elk Grove Village is pulling most of the weight.

"The flooding forced United Airlines Holdings Inc. to shut down the operations center in its headquarters and evacuate flight dispatchers through darkened stairwells of the 110-story building."

"A substation that provides electricity to the skyscraper was still three feet underwater"

"In March, United reopened a back-up operations center at its former suburban headquarters in Elk Grove Village as one step toward enabling safe distancing for employees. Both nerve centers work in tandem to track flights, assign crews and tackle customer-service issues. The carrier also encouraged staff to work from home."

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Old May 20, 20, 10:00 am
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Wow - my former hometown. Fortunately, this happened with low number of flights.
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Old May 20, 20, 10:22 am
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Is UA still selling the Elk Grove campus?
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Old May 20, 20, 10:53 pm
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NBC is reporting '25 feet of water' in the basement of Willis Tower: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news...higan-n1210536

UA's headquarters is likely to be closed for days, if not weeks.
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Old May 21, 20, 2:45 am
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That is kind of amazing.
I have been through Willis several times. Once on a tour of the UA ops center (FT DO), and once when we were looking for office space in Chicago.

Incredible complex to be dark for days on end. I know they were doing a major remodel of the 1st couple floors. Wonder if that contributed.
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Old May 21, 20, 4:05 am
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Originally Posted by goodeats21 View Post
That is kind of amazing.
I have been through Willis several times. Once on a tour of the UA ops center (FT DO), and once when we were looking for office space in Chicago.

Incredible complex to be dark for days on end. I know they were doing a major remodel of the 1st couple floors. Wonder if that contributed.
Right after 9/11, the Main Justice building on Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues in DC was undergoing a long planned renovation to bring the plumbing and wiring up to code. Part of that upgrade was the installation of new emergency power generators in the lower level (2 floors below street level) of the parking garage. Shortly after it was completed, DC was hit with tremendous rain storms. The DOJ building sits at one of the lower elevations along the Mall, and surprise, surprise, the DC sewer system couldn't keep up with the rain, and the entire lower level parking garage was under water, knocking the emergency power off line for months. Oops.
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Old May 21, 20, 9:40 am
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Originally Posted by dordal View Post
NBC is reporting '25 feet of water' in the basement of Willis Tower: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news...higan-n1210536

UA's headquarters is likely to be closed for days, if not weeks.
Apparently basement levels 1 and 2 are now empty, basement level 3 still has water.

The underground electrical substation that was flooded is now no longer flooded, electric company (Com Ed) is doing inspection and repairs before they can bring it back online.

Supposedly they were working on bringing in portable (truck-sized) generators in the mean time, but haven't heard anything about that for a while.
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Old May 21, 20, 5:18 pm
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This reminds me of a client I visited in southern Germany. They were quite proudly showing me their new building including a data center in the basement. As we walked through the data center, they showed me removable metal "dams" that can be put in place to block water from entering the data center. You see, the new building was in a known flood plain and gets flooding on a regular basis.

It took every ounce of my self control to ask them why they decided to put the most water-sensitive equipment underground and not elsewhere in their 7 story new building.
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Old May 21, 20, 5:40 pm
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This was a big problem during Sandy, with hospitals / other critical infrastructure in NYC having their basements with generators flooded.

I believe afterward, code was changed to require generators for life-safety to be above grade.

Not sure if United's ops center had any kind of backup power or just a few hours to smoothly transition or what. Would love more info if anyone has it.

People on social media keep asking "what happened to the Sears Tower generators?" but I don't think random office towers typically have generators for backup power.
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Old May 21, 20, 6:26 pm
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wonder if UA has set up transportation for people from Rosemont CTA to Elk Grove for employees to get there.
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Old May 21, 20, 6:31 pm
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Originally Posted by threeoh View Post

Not sure if United's ops center had any kind of backup power or just a few hours to smoothly transition or what. Would love more info if anyone has it.
You can even see a picture of the operations center in the below article - but yes, they had to have a backup power plan before even considering moving to Willis Tower

https://www.esdglobal.com/gallery/pr...rations-center

The Network Operations Center included redundant electrical systems and standalone mechanical and plumbing systems all backed by a generator.
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Old May 21, 20, 7:58 pm
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Originally Posted by threeoh View Post
This was a big problem during Sandy, with hospitals / other critical infrastructure in NYC having their basements with generators flooded.

I believe afterward, code was changed to require generators for life-safety to be above grade.

Not sure if United's ops center had any kind of backup power or just a few hours to smoothly transition or what. Would love more info if anyone has it.

People on social media keep asking "what happened to the Sears Tower generators?" but I don't think random office towers typically have generators for backup power.
When I was a kid growing up in Chicago, back in the 70's (?), Electromotive Diesel (EMD) had an open house to tour the locomotive plant. I remember them pointing out the huge locomotive engines were being used as backup generators in the Sears Tower. I found this reference to it:

https://www.trainorders.com/discussi....php?1,1346505

"Yes, the Sears Tower has four EMD 20-645E3 standby engines. Marine versions of the 20-645E3 (with a special deep sump crankcase and other marine modifications such as pressure relief crankcase covers) are quite common on some of the large 1,000 footer ore boats on the Great Lakes."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EMD_645

"Municipal workers reversed the flow of the Chicago River early Monday morning to help drain the office building’s basements and an adjacent street."

https://www.chicagobusiness.com/comm...cause-flooding

Hey no biggie, we'll just reverse the flow of the river
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Last edited by paule123; May 21, 20 at 8:18 pm
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Old May 22, 20, 12:02 am
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Just curious where in Elk Grove Village UA has its ops center? I've seen the extensive complex of building and facilities on the north side of E. Algonquin Road but those are not in Elk Grove Village. Google Maps shows the city as Mt. Prospect.

David
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Old May 22, 20, 4:57 am
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Originally Posted by DELee View Post
Just curious where in Elk Grove Village UA has its ops center? I've seen the extensive complex of building and facilities on the north side of E. Algonquin Road but those are not in Elk Grove Village. Google Maps shows the city as Mt. Prospect.

David
Yep, that's it. I think EGV has a special carve-out of its map to capture this property. We also have another emergency back-up location down in the Loop (won't specify location) we're using while Willis is out. Quarterly drills are run for this sort of thing, so all in all UA was well prepared to handle, but yes fortunate timing given all of the non-NOC employees have been working remotely.
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Old May 22, 20, 6:27 am
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Originally Posted by LordHamster View Post
This reminds me of a client I visited in southern Germany. They were quite proudly showing me their new building including a data center in the basement. As we walked through the data center, they showed me removable metal "dams" that can be put in place to block water from entering the data center. You see, the new building was in a known flood plain and gets flooding on a regular basis.

It took every ounce of my self control to ask them why they decided to put the most water-sensitive equipment underground and not elsewhere in their 7 story new building.
At a previous company, our customer put primary servers in the basement of an office building they rented space in - there couldn't have been more than 2 or 3 racks and this was in the rust belt, so office space wasn't expensive.
One day, the sprinkler system went off and the basement flooded, putting all of those servers (Exchange servers, file servers, and DHCP servers for all of the users in North America) got taken offline.
Fortunately there were backup servers for DHCP and Exchange at a factory a few miles away.

I am continually amazed at how places haven't realized how having critical electrical equipment and generators in the basement is a terrible idea.
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Last edited by acregal; May 22, 20 at 9:45 pm
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