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Storms surge across campus; aftermath soggy, but safe and sound

By Elisabeth Wall and Heather Stewart

BOONE, N.C.—A steady rain throughout the day Monday, Oct. 23, followed by mid-afternoon thunder, lightning and torrential rains, caused culverts to overflow, traffic snarls and rerouting, minor leaks in some Appalachian State University facilities and heavy flooding at off-campus housing. Many off-campus apartment complexes have been affected, and the number of displaced students or affected faculty and staff is not yet known.

View larger imageBy 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 23, the skies had cleared and a double rainbow framed Roess Dining Hall. Photo by Troy TuttleView larger imageThe combination of heavy rain and falling leaves left many drains clogged, resulting in flooding in some low-lying areas. This field between Rankin Hall and Edwin Duncan Hall was cleared by class time Tuesday, Oct. 24. Photos by Marie FreemanView larger imageThe combination of heavy rain and falling leaves left many drains clogged, resulting in flooding in some low-lying areas. This field between Rankin Hall and Edwin Duncan Hall was cleared by class time Tuesday, Oct. 24. Photos by Marie Freeman

In the words of Floyd Hicks, maintenance supervisor for the Physical Plant, “You can fight a fire, but you can’t fight water. It has to run its course. The best defense takes place in the pre-planning. When a flood hits, you have to get out of the way and stay safe.”

Chancellor Sheri Everts said, “While our community members affected by Monday’s flood are at the forefront of our thoughts and concerns, in the end, the impacts to campus facilities were quickly mitigated. Some of our off-campus students and community members were not so lucky. Homes in the area have been affected, and a number of student apartments are currently unfit for occupancy. We will do all we can to support our students, faculty and staff as they manage the challenges brought on by the flooding.”

Speaking to preparedness, she said, the emergency systems in place at the university are sound. “We have pre-planned scenario responses. Monday’s storm was an example of planning ahead: the Physical Plant knew the storm was coming and had all of the mechanisms in place to deal with consequences — from sand bags and wet vacs to a double-shift workforce.”

Associate Director of Facilities for University Housing Bruce Bromberger said there was little-to-no impact on student dorm rooms. Due to the sideways rain, there were a few water leaks around windows, and there were exterior clogged drains, which caused some flooding in East Hall’s hallways. Lovill Hall had a similar issue with water in the laundry room, he said.

According to Dr. Greg Taylor, assistant director of the Physical Plant, the Physical Plant team had pre-planned, was prepared and knew the storm was coming. Taylor said sandbags were in place and additional shift employees were on hand. “Housekeeping staff scheduled to work from 3 p.m. to midnight had already made it to campus before traffic stopped and roads closed,” he said. A real-time communication system allowed management to deploy the proper resources and identify the highest priorities. “And, students, faculty and staff in the buildings were also a huge help. People chipped in and also reported issues as our eyes and ears.”

Taylor said workers were able to protect the wood floors in Varsity Gym and the Holmes Convocation Center. Still, there were challenges. Although many of the drains had been cleaned prior to the storm, the combination of heavy rain and falling leaves caused clogging in many of the drains. And the clay storage and pottery room in Katherine Harper Hall, an area that does not normally flood, suffered some damage. Appalachian’s Environmental Health, Safety and Emergency Management Director Jason Marshburn said all weather information his office received indicated the university campus itself was in no immediate danger; hence no alert.

A Weather Emergency Alert (WEA) for the High Country was sounded at approximately 2:45 p.m. Anyone with a mobile phone was notified unless the WEA feature on that phone had been disabled.

Reports are still coming in on the extent of the damage.

According to Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs J. J. Brown, Off-campus Student Services has developed relationships with management of off-campus housing facilities and relies on the students and/or those managers to reach out to the Office of the Dean of Students for services and assistance. He said, “The biggest thing for us is identifying the students who have been impacted. The staff relies on the community to make referrals and help connect the dots.”

Students who need assistance are encouraged to come by the office in Suite 324, Plemmons Student Union, or call 262-8284.

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