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
"It was weird, watching the water get higher,"
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
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
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
While waiting for the floodwaters to go
down, witnesses said, UH police officers waded over from the station to
"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
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
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
In Cougar Place the flooded rooms are still
being repaired. "We had to relocate 72 people from Cougar Place," Blank
"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,"
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
The Ethernet hubs that service the residence
halls are undergoing final adjustments now and should be back in service
soon, Blank said.