Monday, June 25, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 148


 
 









 

UH continues cleanup after flood shuts campus down

By Nikie Johnson
Daily Cougar Staff

The majority of students have only been affected minimally by the campus flood --getting a week off school, spending extra time in classes to make up for it and
perhaps meeting in a different classroom.

But the approximately 350 students living in the residence halls this summer have been dealing with the flooded campus constantly for the past two weeks.


Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar


Facilities Management Lead Plumber (and Daily Cougar cartoonist) John Palamidy, takes in the scenic view of "Moody Moat," complete with a partially
submerged pickup truck. The Moody Towers basement ultimately had 8 feet of water during the weekend of the flood caused by Tropical Storm Allison.

The residents who were awake the night of June 8 got to see Tropical Storm Allison dump 20 inches of rain on the campus and virtually turn it into a lake.

Sandra Pushkin, a senior English and psychology major who lives in the Quadrangle, was awake for the whole ordeal. Pushkin is a guest assistant (during the
summer, people stay on campus who are participating in camps, retreats, etc.) and was on call the weekend of the flood.

"It was weird, watching the water get higher," she said.

The area around campus had begun to flood earlier that evening, but the rain stopped for a while and the waters receded. But when the rain resumed, the
flooding came back. It reached a high point in the Quadrangle around 4 a.m.

"I'd say that there was probably about two feet of water," Pushkin said.

The campus's electricity and phone system went down around 2 a.m. June 9.

"It was OK up until then," Pushkin said, but after that she said many guests and GAs got much more upset and worried.

In Cougar Place many of the first-floor rooms flooded.

Keishawna Harris, a student in the Graduate School of Social Work, and Charity Clarke, a senior hospitality major, are suitemates in Cougar Place and were
flooded out by the storm.

"Stuff was just floating around in our rooms," Harris said the morning after the flood.

They said the concrete in front of their room doors, which open directly to the outside, is lower than it should be, and water accumulates there whenever it rains.

"When it was raining last night, it was no surprise that water came in," Harris said.

"There's been water here since (June 4)," she said, indicating the ground just outside her door, where concrete stepping stones were placed so her feet
wouldn't get wet.

"When the power went off and everyone was out there," she continued, pointing to the courtyard area outside, "we were trapped -- we couldn't open our doors."

"This didn't have to happen," she said. "This could have been avoided."

Andy Blank, executive director of Residential Life and Housing, said his department is trying to fix problems like this.

"We're working on a landscape plan on that," he said. He added that they were working on the plan before the flooding, which has actually given them a better
idea of the situation.

Some residents' belongings also sustained flood damage. Clarke and Harris said they had taken some of their possessions elsewhere earlier that week and
had piled their electronics in the bathtub the night of the flood.

But many other items were ruined. Holding a trash bag the morning after the flood, Clarke said, "This is $200 of textbooks I'm throwing out right now."

Harris said they had been told that if they didn't have renters insurance, then they were out of luck for compensation.

Blank cautioned that this might or might not turn out to be the case. Students may be covered under their parents' homeowners insurance, and there is a slight
chance the University might be able to offer some help.

Bob Schneller, the executive director of safety and risk management, said UH has hired an external claims consultant to work on insurance claims.

The Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs is encouraging students to fill out claims forms, and Schneller said the consultant and insurance adjusters will
determine if any of those damages are covered.

During the early hours of June 9, one Cougar Place resident sustained a storm-related injury. Brian Theriot, a sophomore hotel and restaurant management
major, said he went out at 1:30 a.m. to help a friend in a wheelchair move his van from the street in front of Cougar Place, where waters were rising.

Lightning and thunder struck, and Theriot and other witnesses who had been outside said it sounded very close. Everyone dashed for cover under the main
Cougar Place entrance.

"I slipped on the tile floor, and fell and hit my head," Theriot said.

He was carried into the Cougar Place office, where he had to wait until 7 a.m. for an ambulance to come. (Wheeler Street was impassible under 4 feet of water
during the storm.)

Witnesses said the back of Theriot's head was bleeding badly and he was shaking. Emergency medical personnel who helped him in the ambulance told him
he had probably gone into shock a couple of times.

While waiting for the floodwaters to go down, witnesses said, UH police officers waded over from the station to help him.

"There were some students there who helped out a lot," Theriot said. He said he has been wanting to thank them but can't remember their names because of
his condition at the time. "One guy let me use his cell phone on 'roam' for six hours."

When the ambulance did get through, Theriot said, it got "swamped" on Main Street. "They had to commandeer an 18-wheeler to get me to the emergency
room."

Once there, he said he was in intensive care for a day and a half and hospitalized a couple days after that. He was treated for a moderate concussion and had
six staples for his head wound.

Residents who slept through the storm were in for a surprise the next morning, especially if their cars had been parked in the Cougar Place lot (12A, south of
Robertson Stadium).

Dozens of cars were flooded, and many wouldn't start. UH police officers had posted a sign on the Cougar Place office door warning that the lot was flooding,
but that didn't help the students who had turned in for the night.

Brooke Malone was in Houston to visit her boyfriend, Cory Whalen, a sophomore political science major who lives in Cougar Place. Whalen's car started, but
water gushed out of the exhaust pipe every time the engine revved. "When we first started it, the water was just pouring out," Malone said.

In the following days, residents and workers had to start the cleanup effort, which is still going on. Many students knew it was going to be a daunting task.

"Nobody knew what to do -- what we were going to do for food, water, anything," said Allison Roberts, a senior advertising major who lived in the Towers.

Chartwells, which had one generator working, ended up bringing food to the Oberholtzer cafeteria three times a day until normal operations were restored. The
water was never unsafe to drink.

In the Quadrangle, the basements of all the halls flooded. Blank said there was damage to couches, carpets and equipment there but none to the buildings or
students' rooms.

In Cougar Place the flooded rooms are still being repaired. "We had to relocate 72 people from Cougar Place," Blank said.

"We had to pull the carpets, even if there was a miniscule amount of water ... because of health reasons," he said. Bacteria and mold could start growing if the
wet materials aren't removed and replaced. "We also have to replace the first 4 feet of plaster for the same reason."

Blank said a "very rough estimate" put the damages to the entire residential system at about $1 million.

Moody Towers' basement was under more than eight feet of water by the time the storm finished. "The reason we had 'Moody Moat' down there is because we
lost the sump pumps -- they shorted out," Blank said.

The Towers were evacuated June 10 because the electricity and emergency generators were off. Residents moved into the Quadrangle. Pumps had to be
brought in, and all the water was removed by June 15.

In the dark, hot environment left by no light or air conditioning, mold started taking over the towers, Blank said. With a huge effort from the cleaning staff, the
Towers were cleaned up and all the safety features were restored in 36 hours, he said.

The students who were living there will stay in the Quadrangle for the rest of the summer, Blank said, but the more than 750 people staying there who are
training for Teach for America moved back in June 17. 

Power was restored in the Quadrangle and Cougar Place on June 12 but remained off in the Towers until June 15 because of all the water.

Cougar Place didn't lose its hot water, but the water heaters still don't work in the Towers or Quadrangle. Blank said large trucks with steam boilers were
brought in Monday and Tuesday, more than a week after the storm, to get hot water into the Towers and the Quadrangle.

Cable television and Ethernet services still haven't been restored to residents.

"We cannot turn on the TV until we pull some cables," Blank said. "The cables are in the tunnels."

The tunnels are still being cleaned, so workers are not yet allowed in. Blank said the equipment is ready to repair the cables as soon as work in the tunnels has
been OK'd.

The Ethernet hubs that service the residence halls are undergoing final adjustments now and should be back in service soon, Blank said.
 
 
 

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