Severe thunderstorms identify problem areas on campus

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The entrance to the overpass was flooded as a result of relentless rain.

In the three-day storm that hovered over campus as a literal dark cloud, students found it difficult not only to get to classes without getting entirely wet, but also faced issues in regards to flooding and leaking in their dorms. According to Associate Director of Physical Plant Alan Dawson, work orders in that time period doubled, mostly pertaining to issues of water coming from under doors in the Pei complex and leakage from roofs.

“This is not something we get hit with very often, so in terms of our retention ponds, we’re maxed out,” Maintenance Coordinator Ron Bell remarked at press time. “Water [was] going to everywhere else to the point where we [had] water in places where we don’t usually have water, so we were pretty well saturated to the point where the ground’s not taking any more water.”

The natural area outside of the Counseling and Wellness Center retained water rather than let it flow to other areas.

Dawson and Bell pointed out that in terms of drainage, campus had fared pretty well. They noted that while there was excess water in some places, the parking lot’s design allowed for minimal issues and that the retention ponds had succeeded in collecting runoff. Retention ponds are located all over campus, most notably in the front and back of the natural sciences building, north of ACE and what students may know as the “wooded area” at the backside of the Pei complex. Attributing the efficient draining system to campus’s extensive acreage, Dawson said that in the future, issues pertaining to flooding “will never really be a problem.”

“We were bragging just among ourselves two weeks ago that we thought that we were through with the rainy season and we had very few roof issues, and the ones that we did, we repaired fairly quickly,” Dawson said. “Then all of a sudden, the skies opened up and we got not as many roof leaks … some of the rain was blowing sideways under windows and under sliding glass doors.”

Maintenance coordinator Ron Bell noted that campus was “saturated” and that it was at its maximum capacity for water retention.

First-year Daniel Koster, one of the many students that filed in rain-related work requests during the time of the storms, explained that his roof faced some damage.

“There was evidently some water damage and the water had been dripping through the concrete above [the roof], and I came in and there was a large hole in our ceiling,” Koster said. “[We] called Physical Plant and got that expedited, and the [worker] … tore down more of the ceiling exposing a lot more of the concrete, and he gave us a box fan to blow on to dry the water.”

Koster added, “A man’s dorm room is his castle and he wants to feel secure from acts of God.  Physical Plant’s doing the best they can – like you try keeping up with a college campus.”

Physical Plant was hard at work during the storms. Rather than keeping with routine lawn-blowing and outdoor maintenance, Landscape Coordinator Michael Williams had his crew working in the middle of the storm clearing out grates to prevent further issues.

“[The storm helped] us identify our problem areas,” Bell said. “We had guys on the roofs while it was raining. [This] identified what our issues are.”

Some students found that the tiles outside of Hamilton Center and in the Pei courts were especially hazardous during the storm, since the rain made them extra slippery to walk on. The tiles, which date as far back as the 1960s, have created inconveniences for barefoot students and bicyclists. Physical Plant stated that while they are well aware of the situation, there are no current plans to replace them in the near future.

“Our biggest concern with those tiles in particular is keeping them in place, they’re popping loose so once a week we’ll send a guy out there for half a day or better, cementing them back,” Dawson said. “That’s an awful lot of traffic, bicycles, golf carts, skateboards and everything, back when those tiles were put up they used to have signs that said: ‘no bicycles or skateboards’ so that’s our biggest concern.”

Yet in the midst of what seems like a giant inconvenience on the part of Mother Nature, there is a silver lining.

“Just when we thought we were doing well two or three weeks ago, six months from now, we’ll be in so much better shape because this exposed some of the weaknesses.” Dawson added. One of the weaknesses in question was a sinkhole that appeared in front of the Four Winds Café. At press time, Bell noted that the maintenance crew would get to that issue within the next week.

“I just want to say that [Physical Plant] just wants to thank the students and faculty for being so patient,” Dawson said. “Everyone was so patient and forgiving with us and for that we are very [grateful].”


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