1 year anniversary of UW-Superior flood of 2012 - Jun 19, 2013 - University News - UW-Superior News and Events

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1 year anniversary of UW-Superior flood of 2012

Posted on Jun 19, 2013
Not since the fire of 1914 has a natural disaster impacted the campus of UW-Superior more than the summer flood of 2012.
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1 year anniversary of UW-Superior flood of 2012

Water was needed to put out the fire of 1914 but nearly 100 years later it was just the opposite, as the university had to get rid of water. Lots of it.

During the evening hours of June 19, 2012 water rushed beneath, around and into campus buildings. Nearly all 33 buildings on campus had flood water in them, ranging from minimal to several feet.

A year later, damage estimates are still mounting and the total is approaching $25 million dollars according to Jan Hanson the vice-chancellor, administration and finance at UW-Superior.Approximately $7.6 million dollars in uninsured losses have been identified. She said FEMA covers 75 percent of uninsured losses. Hanson said, "We aren't able to define the exact amount as there is still work being done such as the second phase of the steam line distribution system." The nearly $25 million dollars in destruction has also set a new record for a single state of Wisconsin insurance claim.

Campus and recovery partners moved quickly to recover from the massive damage. Campus operations were back to normal within days for some parts of campus that were less affected. By the time students returned in the fall there, most were likely unable to tell the massive damage that campus had retained just months earlier. However, there are two buildings and team members that have made quick and dramatic recovery and continue to manage ongoing recovery efforts. The Jim Dan Hill Library and the Halbert Heating Plant.

The rain overwhelmed the basement collection of the library with nearly six feet of water in the lower level. Water had made its way to the top of the stairs and carried with it, books, maps, furniture and government documents.

Debra Nordgren is the director of the Jim Dan Hill Library and said the past year was very unconventional. "It was pretty devastating for the library staff to continue to see the water rise in the lower level of the Library on June 19-20 last year. However, they rallied and within a day had moved the necessary materials and equipment to meet the needs of faculty and staff for summer session classes." Nordgren added, "Ultimately we were dismayed when we lost all of the materials that were in the lower level: the general book collection, periodicals, legal materials, and Wisconsin and Federal Government documents."

Nordgren said the basement has been cleaned and restored. "We replaced some of the shelving for print materials. We have placed our print books and journals on this level again. The re-building of the collection will continue for some time."

Due to the flood, the library staff had to be creative in how they could serve the campus community in such a short time frame. Nordgren said, "We subscribed to two major ebook packages so students and faculty would have access to that academic literature for fall. We've been able to meet most of the needs for journal articles through our current online database subscriptions. Throughout the past year we've worked extensively with the faculty to identify what materials to replace. We've added 9,724 print books, 1,197 Wisconsin and Federal Government Documents, and most periodical subscription issues since Jan 2012. We continue to receive materials daily."

The key to a quick recovery was communication. Nordgren was pleased how everyone responded. "The library faculty through our Library Liaison program have been working closely with the campus faculty to review and rebuild the collection. This has been a great opportunity to enhance this working relationship and build a collection to meet our current & future curriculum."

Jim Dan Hill Library was originally built in 1968 and it was renovated and reopened to students again in August of 2009. The total cost of that project was 7.7 million dollars and was paid for by the state, alumni and friends of the university.

Nordgren was thrilled with how the staff dedicated themselves to improving the facility following the flood. They did so well in fact that at the Faculty and Staff Recognition program this May the library staff won the Outstanding Team Award for 2012-13 academic year. She said, "Library staff has really stepped up to the challenge of rebuilding the collection. We've had to revise many of our processes and procedures for doing work that's mostly behind the scenes. We've also revised our library instruction sessions as well to make sure students can take advantage of the resources we provide. In many ways, it' business as usual, providing great service to our users by providing information literacy instruction, answering reference questions and assisting students with their research papers, borrowing materials from other libraries as needed."

That wasn't the only campus location that was hit hard that night. The Halbert Heating Plant took in nearly 30 feet or an estimated 700,000 gallons of water during the flood. The mechanicals in the building sustained substantial damage and the steam lines that run from that facility to all campus buildings were also flooded.

The steam line repairs started during the summer of 2012, continue again in 2013, and will wrap up in 2014. Tom Fennessey, director of facilities management explains that part of the plan, "This project consists of excavating portions of existing underground campus steam lines damaged by the June 2012 campus flood. This project is necessary to correct damaged pipe and insulation due to the steam line vaults being totally flooded during the June flood. The repairs will result in increased longevity, higher grade insulation, waterproofing and increased energy efficiencies."

Work will continue on the steam lines through the end of August with substantial completion before the fall semester starts. Some sod and seeding may occur at the beginning of the semester, but all of the repairs and dirt work will be completed. Underground work at Holden Fine Arts Center is also taking place this summer assessing potential damage in that area.

Despite the natural disaster that hit the campus that night, resulting in nearly 25 million dollars in damage, nobody was hurt. The campus then rallied to support each other. Students, faculty, and staff helped to repair and replace what this natural disaster tore apart. The campus neighbors and business community were also there in a time that UW-Superior needed help.

Vicki Hajewski, vice-chancellor for campus life and dean of students at UW-Superior was shocked at what she saw following the flood. "I have to say it was heartbreaking for me to see all the initial damage. However, the way our campus responded and kept things going was phenomenal. The day after the flood we were for all intents and purposes closed to assess damages, but there were many, many staff members who showed up and pitched in. Staff were very understanding about needing to temporarily relocate offices, get phones and voicemail back up and running, etc. while vendors and technical staffed worked diligently to get us operational."

Hajewski was proud of the ambitious efforts everyone showed during those first few days. "I can't say enough positive things about how the campus responded to these efforts. Our summer camps and clinics continued and we were prepared for students at the start of fall semester. Except for the library collection, I'm guessing that students didn't even realize that the campus had undergone a major disaster only two months earlier."

UW-Superior Chancellor, Renée Wachter agreed with everyone that it took a team approach to tackle this challenge, "I am so proud of how everyone responded and made the best of the situation. It goes to show you the wonderful people we have working and going to school here that we could overcome an obstacle such as this. The partnership with the local business community was also a key to recovery."

A flood mitigation study is being conducted on campus now to avoid such a flood in the future. From that, plans and ideas for the future will need to be agreed upon and approved both at the local and state levels.

In the meantime, "We would love to all sleep at night when it rains," said Tom Fennessey director of facilities management.

Sleep is something the UW-Superior campus did not do a lot of following the flood of June 2012, nor following the campus fire of 1914. Rain, snow or heat…it doesn't seem to matter. The Superior spirit lives on no matter what the natural disaster challenge.


News Contact: Tom Hansen | 715-394-8260 | thansen7{atuws}
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