University closed due to flood

By Meghan Finlayson

Senior Writer

Over 1,000 University students were evacuated from their places of residence last Thursday, Sept. 8,  and University officials are working on finding alternate places of residence for those still inconvenienced by the historic flooding.

The Emergency Management team met Tuesday through Friday afternoon to deal with the crisis. This team includes President John Bravman, Provost Mick Smyer, Chief of Public Safety Jason Friedburg, Deans of Students Susan Lantz and other senior administrators.

“Last week, the biggest challenge was to ensure that students downtown were moved out of harm’s way, and to ensure that students in residence halls that might be impacted by the storm had alternative places to stay,” said Pete Mackey, Vice President for Communications and Community Relations.

The communications staff got word out to the University community as quickly as possible during this critical time.

“We wanted to be sure that we were communicating often and effectively. We used texts, emails, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter …  and direct conversations with students by phone or through Residential Education professional staff and RAs,” Lantz said.

“A big challenge was coordinating responses to a rapidly changing situation, and the need to communicate our plans to students, faculty and staff as quickly and coherently as possible,” Smyer said.

Students were evacuated from buildings that had the greatest potential for flooding. Most evacuations occurred Thursday morning.

Approximately 600 students were evacuated from on-campus locations, and about 500 students were evacuated from off-campus housing primarily because of flash flooding.

“Evacuating 1,000 students in a short time and in an orderly fashion went very well, in part because of our emergency planning prior to this event,” Smyer said. 

Gerhard Fieldhouse, the Elaine Langone Center and the Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library were kept open 24 hours so that all students had safe places to stay. Dining Services also ensured access to food throughout this emergency.

“They gave out free food in the cafeteria to all students who had to evacuate their dorms, which was really nice,” Kristina Patrk ’13 said.

The flooding was the worst on Sixth Street and St. George Street, and in the Harris parking lot between St. George and Loomis Streets.

Mayor Judy Wagner declared a curfew on behalf of the Borough of Lewisburg to keep people out of harm’s way as the downtown flooding threat grew. The curfew was in effect from 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 8 to 7 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10 in areas prone to flooding downtown.

Despite the adversity, students seemed to make the best of the situation.

“I talked with 10 students evacuated from their house on Wednesday night and they were all doing great … quickly finding friends to stay with … I was in Bostwick Marketplace on Thursday night and it was fun to see everyone with their pillows and sleeping bags with them, laughing and enjoying each other’s company,” Lantz said.

“While it was awful and a lot of my friends were misplaced, it was refreshing to see how helpful and caring everyone was toward each other,” Meghan FitzPatrick ’12 said.

Many students reached out to the Lewisburg community through the Office of Civic Engagement. Among many others, students from a foundation seminar, Theta Chi fraternity, the lacrosse and basketball teams, the Bucknell Brigade, Student Emergency Response Volunteers (SERV) and the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship stepped up to help out Lewisburg residents that were affected by the flooding.

“The last few days reminded me of the best of the Bucknell community, staff and students, who intentionally reach out to help others in a time of need,” said Janice Butler, Director of Civic Engagement & Service Learning.

Faculty and staff also kept their spirits high. “There were lots of staff members in facilities in particular that spent many hours cleaning up residence halls and other buildings, and making sure the campus was ready for classes on Friday. Even though many of them came from flooded areas, they stayed and worked on campus to make sure students were in a safe environment,” Executive Director of Human Resources Marcia Hoffman said. 

The Office of Housing Services is offering assistance to those who still are without housing.

“We had limited spaces available [for on-campus housing] this fall, but are being as creative as possible to find safe, comfortable housing for students in need,” Lantz said.

 

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