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Heavy rains and thunderstorms cause damage

The heavy rains from thunderstorms caused flooding in dorm rooms, forcing students to protect personal belongings from the water. Photo by Sarah Lincoln

Due to the heavy rains from thunderstorms over the weekend, Steiner Hall, Noyce Science Center, Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, the Old Glove Factory, the John Crystal Center, Clark Hall and Younker Hall all required Facilities Management to extract water from isolated areas of basement-level floors.

Rick Whitney, Assistance Vice President for Facilities Management (FM), wrote in an email to The S&B that in addition to the John Crystal Center (JCC), there was some electronics damage when the water caused localized electrical surges. In Steiner Hall, there was drywall damage that FM is in the process of removing. Whitney wrote that he is not aware of any direct lightning strikes.

However, on Saturday night, lightning struck close to Food House at 1128 East Street. Sarina Lincoln ’21 and Eva Gemrich ’20 both had their windows open when it struck. Lincoln said that she heard incredibly loud thunder and saw lightning simultaneously, and the fire alarm went off for a couple of minutes.

When Campus Safety came to see what happened, they called the Grinnell Fire Department, and three fire trucks came. The Fire Department found that the smoke detectors had been damaged by an electrical surge and were not working.

Afterwards, the Pioneer One-Card reader on the house and Wi-Fi stopped working until Sept. 6, when they were finally able to be fixed, according to Lincoln. The smoke detectors have also been repaired.

“I just thought it was kind of cool. And we all looked up lightning facts,” Lincoln said. “It wasn’t scary because it didn’t affect us, like I didn’t get electrocuted, nothing bad happened, and the chances of it hitting the house again were kind of slim so, it was just funny and it was loud.”

SGA Harris, put on by the Student Government Association (SGA), was also canceled once the hosts, the members of the SGA cabinet, realized that a large amount of water was collecting in the main entrance, according to Riley Murphy, SGA vice president of academic affairs.

At around 11 p.m., about an hour after the party had started, the Harris Center lost power for a few seconds and some students expressed concerns about getting back to their dorms. The hosts called Campus Safety and talked to the All Campus Events Security Staff (ACESS), eventually deciding to cancel the remainder of the event.

In case of an event like a storm resulting in flooding, FM has on-call custodial and trades crews that can respond after being contacted by Campus Safety, after the Safety department assesses the needs. FM then comes in and figures out how many staff and how much equipment, such as carpet extractors, fans or dehumidifiers, will be necessary.

After the cleanup, Whitney wrote, most of the damage should be solved. “Most areas that were impacted are somewhat resistant to water infiltration and we have solid remediation plans for areas where moisture remains,” Whitney wrote.

Reece Downey ’21, who lives in Gates Pit, dealt with flooding in his room, along with his roommate Brandon Thomas ’21. Downey estimated that around 12:30 a.m. the power in South Campus shut off for a few seconds and, soon after, he got a call from Thomas that there was water in their room. Downey went home, and the two roommates did their best to barricade the water away from their electronics and personal belongings. The water was about ankle-deep covering half of the room at its peak.

“Since Brandon was there he noticed and he unplugged everything that was close by; nothing really got wet besides maybe our carpet a little bit, but if it had gone further, like if neither of us were there, it probably would have gotten into our power strips or whatever,” Downey said. “But we were lucky we caught everything so we didn’t really have any damage.”

FM came to their room on Wednesday to check if there was any damage to repair. They didn’t find anything, but Downey and Thomas have kept a towel in the corner since. While it has collected some water, Downey said he doesn’t think there will be any problems once the rain stops.

Downey, a Midwest native from 70 miles away in Indianola, has dealt with flooding in his home basement many times before in heavy rain. Brian Paul, emergency management coordinator for Poweshiek County, said that the county has also dealt with the results of these storms, street and basement flooding, before.

“It’s not something we deal with often, but it’s something we have dealt with in the past, and it was the same situation where we just got severe amounts of rain in a short amount of time that caused lots of flooding,” Paul said. “The county has been through this before.”

The heavy rains from thunderstorms caused flooding in dorm rooms, forcing students to protect personal belongings from the water. Photo by Sarah Lincoln
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