Raining on parade

By The Beacon | January 24, 2012 9:00pm

Melting snow and torrential rain flood areas on and off campus

(Ian Hilger | THE BEACON)

By Rosemary Peters, Editor-in-Chief -- peters12@up.edu

When it rains, it pours.

And pours.

Especially work orders.

On Jan. 19, heavy rain and melting snow caused flash flooding all over campus and beyond, including Swindells Hall, the print shop in the basement of the Buckley Center, UP-owned rental houses and the bioswale near the Bell Tower.

Physical Plant workers were running around as early as 4 a.m. trying to stem the tide of weather-related work orders.

"There was so much water coming down – it was just crazy," Mechanical Foreman Billy Vandervelden said.

Many students came back from class to find their rooms in UP-owned houses flooded.

There was also water built up in their window wells.

"A student looked out his window and likened it to an aquarium," Interim Director of Physical Plant Fay Beeler said.

When Andrew Gustav, a junior, left for class in the morning, his room was dry. He returned three hours later to a half inch of standing water in his basement room, which he shares with junior John Knoffler.

"Around 12:31 John calls me and tells me to come back home," Gustav said. "It was marshy."

Physical Plant workers were able to extract the water out of Gustav and Knoffler's carpet, but their housemate, junior Rob Cagan, had to have his carpet completely removed.

Despite the inconvenience of the flooding, Gustav thought UP took their situation seriously. Cagan even brought four pizzas over to Physical Plant as a "thank you."

On campus, there were flooding problems – inside and out.

University President Fr. Bill Beauchamp, C.S.C., took some time to gaze in wonder as workers pumped water out of the overflowing bioswale near the Bell Tower.

The bioswale is designed to capture surface runoff water, remove silt and pollution from the water and allow the water to percolate through the earth into the Willamette River. However, last Thursday the rain fell so quickly that the bioswale backed up and had to be roped off because a miniature lake had formed.

Though Portland is no stranger to rain, Beeler said the snow that had fallen earlier in the week in addition to the increase in rain created the perfect storm. The last time UP experienced similar problems due to rapid snow melt and rain was in 1996.

"All this darn winter stuff happens at the same time," Beeler said. "And this (situation) was complicated by the snow."

In order to try to prevent further weather-related damage, Physical Plant workers have cleaned drains, cleared gutters, repainted basement walls with sealants and dug window wells deeper.

However, according to Vandervelden, there's only so much Physical Plant can do to prevent weather-related problems when a major storm hits the region.

"Sometimes when Mother Nature gives you a curveball, you just have to ride it out," Vandervelden said.