Newell Hall floods; 32 students displaced during repairs

By: Marcus Whitman, Staff Writer

At around 5:30 a.m. on March 27,  Interim Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs for Housing and Residence Life Christina Olstad was informed of a flood in the Newell Residence Hall. The flooding, she said, began about an hour before that.

A hot water pipe in the ceiling burst, flooding the basement and first floors of the building. As fire alarms rang through the halls, residents were forced to evacuate and 32 people were displaced.

“It was a fire alarm that went off and I just woke up,” said Fraol Benti, a sophomore IT major who was relocated to Residence Tower after the flood. “I really didn’t hear anything, from my side.”

Benti and his roommate watched as other students climbed through their windows to escape the flooding. According to him, there was no real evacuation plan.

“As we opened our door, all the water was coming down from the hallway roof,” Benti said. “So, we just choose to go out the window instead of going out that way because the water was really hot.”

Olstad said that the water damage from the flood was contained to the side of Newell closest to Stephens Hall.

“Facilities [Management] were contacted and contracted a cleanup crew to fix the water damage and restore the rooms,” Olstad said.

Assistant Director of Auxiliary Maintenance for Facilities Management Nick Gingue said that the flooding occurred during the maintenance staff shift change, so there were extra hands available to help clean up the water.

“Our staff was in there right away checking to see what the issue was,” Gingue said. “They saw that there was water coming out of the pipe, so they tried to find the valve to shut it off.”

Maintenance crews had to shut off water to the entire building to slow the flow of water, which did not stop right away because the water already in the pipes was left to drain out.

“Once they were able to slow down the water, the plumbing shop came in on campus to assist,” Gingue said. “They were able to find the issue and stop the water.”

According to Gingue, the restoration crew got to Newell within the hour.

“That is why we have these restoration companies on call, so they can mobilize quickly and come out,” Gingue said. “Then they assess everything they need to do as well, and then bring in the proper personal as well and proper equipment.”

According to Olstad, the displaced students were moved to vacant double rooms across campus until their rooms in Newell were repaired. However, students like Benti and his roommate were left to deal with damage to their personal belongings.

“Some of my shoes got wet and my clothes got wet too,” Benti said. “I had to pick up my backpack and the rest of my shoes and put it on my bed before I left the building.”

According to Olstad, there is an insurance claim agent students can talk to about filing a claim.

Benti said that students were not given enough information about the claims process, though they were told that it would take 30 to 50 days for the claims to be processed. According to him, students have yet to see the forms they would need to fill out to make a claim.

“The only thing the university [has] done, or the building has done, is they told us we could do free laundry for two days in case we have any wet clothes, but other [than] that we haven’t gotten anything,” Benti said.

Though students like Benti may be having some difficulty with insurance claims, Olstad said they were able to move back into their rooms last week after a thorough check was done to ensure rooms were dry.

“Some students who were displaced moved back on [April 5], while the rest moved back in [April 8],” Olstad said.

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