Wednesday, August 22, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 1


UH continues to evaluate flood damages

By Ed De La Garza
Daily Cougar Staff

Although the bulk of the post-Tropical Storm Allison cleanup is complete, the University is still assessing damages caused by the severe flooding that swept through campus
June 8.

The flood closed the campus for a week and forced more than 130 summer classes to relocate as crews worked around the clock to establish some semblance of order.

Brian Viney/The Daily Cougar

The temporary structures of one of UH's "classroom villages," near the University Center, stand in readiness for the first day of classes of the fall semester. The villages will take the place of several campus buildings still undergoing renovations and repairs following the devastation of Tropical Storm Allison.

"When the storm hit us it affected 90 out of 105 buildings," Associate Vice President for Plant Operations Dave Irvin said. "We lost 17 of 20 electrical feeders. We've been able to
make most of those repairs. A majority of the buildings will be up and providing services."

The University used in-house and contracted labor to restore and, in some cases, rebuild the campus. The initial restoration process involved having crews work 16- to
18-hour days just to re-open the campus by June 18. Crews are now working to put the finishing touches on affected buildings.

But the more severely damaged facilities the UH Law Center, the UC Underground and the UC Satellite will undergo repairs throughout the semester.

"We lost one-quarter of a million books (in the Law Center)," Irvin said. "It'll cost $17 million to replace those books. Several floors were devastated and key portions have to be
entirely rebuilt."

The Law Center may be open, but the University will use provisional "classroom villages" to house some of its services, namely two classrooms, Houston Law Review offices,
law student organizations and a library.

The UC Underground and the UC Satellite, both of which took in tremendous amounts of water, will re-open in stages.

"The Satellite will probably take a little bit longer," Irvin said. " We lost a lot of food service equipment. We're working closely with Chartwells in providing alternative food

Initial estimates had the Satellite re-opening by mid-semester, but because of the extensive damage, the opening may be pushed back until spring semester, 2002.

Another village will be used for other displaced classes and services, many of which will be moved back throughout the semester. Located near the UC, that facility will be used
for computer labs and a writing center, staff from the art, communications and Veterans Affairs departments and six classrooms.

Ongoing restoration efforts include replacing and repairing furniture, decontaminating, emergency repairs, dehumidification, removal of asbestos and developing preventative
plans. While the University has a "hard cost" now $125 million for these repairs, UH President Arthur K. Smith has said before that it could take several years before the
final losses can be determined.

"It does not include the huge cost of in-house labor," Irvin said. "There was architectural damage in just about every building."

The current estimate does not include lost research, lost income from conferences that had to be canceled and other lost revenue, which could exceed the $125 million figure.
Of that, $25 million is currently covered by insurance, though the University is still working with its insurance underwriters and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to
offset more of the costs.

The residence halls are still undergoing minor repairs, including annual maintenance work, which was put on hold during the flood recovery. About 350 residents living on
campus during the summer were affected in some way. Some students residing in Cougar Place had to be relocated as repairs and demolitions took place.

"We displaced 76 students into the Quad while we repaired those rooms," Executive Director of Residential Life and Housing Andy Blank said. "We moved those students back
in this (past) weekend."

Residents may have been inconvenienced by lack of power, water and food services during the campus shutdown, but Blank was pleased with the way they reacted.

"The students have been great, very understanding," he said. "There was some frustration when students were moved into the Quad, but Chartwells came through with some
food for which they didn't charge."

Part of the problem for the residence halls, and the University, was the lack of steam to run hot water. Trailers running steam generators were parked near the residence halls
and Science and Research II until Friday. Two water pumps needed to be replaced, and a new hot water system was needed for the residence halls, Blank said.

While the repairs will help UH return to normal, the University is also hoping to limit any future damages by another storm of Allison's magnitude. Among the preventative
measures are moving auxiliary generators to higher ground, moving computer labs to upper levels, developing an alternative to the law library and working on the University's
physical, telecommunications and data infastructure..

"People can't remember when there was this much water," Blank said. "It was good to get a perspective on what to do, what not to do. It showed where we were vulnerable. We
need to reconfigure some of the vulnerable areas."

It inconvenienced students, staff and faculty, but UH officials were pleased with the way the entire community dealt with the process.

"It will serve this university well as we move forward," Irvin said. "It will do more to calling this a Tier I status than any funds we would receive."

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