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Boston Weather: 40.0°F | A Few Clouds

Weekend Storm Results in Damage Totalling Millions


Steve Mann
A Physical Plant worker opens the storm drain at Edgerton House to alleviate flooding.

By Stacey E. Blau
Editor in Chief

Physical Plant is in the process of dealing with damages to buildings across campus caused by this weekend's massive storm, one of the worst local downpours in recent history.

"It's been pretty dramatic," said Physical Plant Director Victoria V. Sirianni. Almost every building has suffered some problems, with effects ranging from leaks to flooding to the most serious hazard - hydraulical oil contamination of ground water that seeped into Building 48.

Physical Plant is still in the process of cataloguing and fixing problems as they are reported, but it is already clear that the damages will likely run in the millions of dollars.

"It'll be tons," said Physical Plant Manager for Building Maintenance Joseph F. Gifun. "Some of these things are covered by insurance, but that's mostly just for damage" itself, not for repairs, he said.

Investigating and correcting all of the problems will be a very expensive and time-consuming process, so it is not certain that every problem will be thoroughly tracked, Gifun said.

Physical Plant foresaw problems

The warning signs of the storm began Saturday with strong winds causing power to be knocked out at Random Hall for several hours that night.

"We heard weather reports and felt kind of itchy," Gifun said.

A crew of Physical Plant workers worked Sunday to get a head start on fixing problems. Crews have since been working around the clock.

By Sunday, "things were kind of in bad shape," Sirianni said.

Yesterday the situation was even worse because the water had begun to settle in. "It's just everywhere. It's really all we can do to mop it up," Sirianni said.

The flooding is at least the worst in the past decade. "This is the worst one yet," Gifun said.

"It's a very unusual event," said Director of the Campus Activities Complex Phillip J. Walsh.

Several weather reports claimed that had it snowed rather than rained, the area would have received over 90 inches of snow. "Thank God it was rain and not snow," Walsh said.

A number of local public schools were closed yesterday because of flooded roads in Boston and surrounding towns. The Head of the Charles Regatta was canceled on Sunday for the first time in its 32-year history [see story, p. 1].

The MBTA has canceled all service on the green line until later this week because of flooding.

Perimeter buildings suffer most

Although nearly every area on campus experienced some damage, perimeter areas were hit the worst, Gifun said.

Building 48 has experienced the most serious problems as a result of the storm. Ground water that rose up into the building was contaminated with hydraulical elevator oil, and a local environmental firm had to be called in to clean up the problem, Sirianni said.

The building, the Parsons Laboratory for Water Resources and Hydrodynamics, also experienced a steam leakage and has had some of its computer equipment and laser equipment shut down.

Building 66 experienced a flood in its sub-basement that reached a depth of one inch. "The water table is pretty overcharged at this point," Gifun said.

"It's been pretty wet," Sirianni said. But the main complex has not been hit particularly hard. "The basement has been relatively dry," she said.

The Student Center, a building often plagued by leaks, has also held up well, Walsh said.

"We did experience some water problems, but that's to be expected," Walsh said.

There has been "quite a bit of corrective action" taken to make sure that the Student Center can avoid leak problems in bad weather, Walsh said. "The upper part of the building is doing better than it used to. The rain storm was a good test of that."

There were some leakage problems in the basement of the Religious Activities Center and in the basement of Walker Memorial, where the room used by the Gilbert and Sullivan Players was filled with water. "That's a new source of a leak," Walsh said.

A number of dormitories also felt the effects of the rain.

East Campus had its basement flooded, said East Campus acting House Manager Geri-Lyn Sprague. About five rooms also experienced some leakage or sink drain problems.

"From what I heard from other dorms, we did pretty well," Sprague said. "For the amount of rain we got, we really lucked out."

Edgerton House had its ground floor flooded, said Edgerton House Manager Gertrude A. Morris.

"I think it's just a common thing," she said. "The drains get backed up in the city streets," keeping rain above ground and able to find its way inside buildings, she said.

MacGregor Convenience Store also experienced some problems. A chronic leak in the ceiling right next to the cash register has been "dripping this really nasty brown liquid," said Scott D. Lew '99, who works in the store.