Hurricane Harvey in Linfield facilities team’s thoughts

Olivia Gomez, Staff writer

As of Saturday, residents of Beaumont, Texas, had no access to running water, according to the New York Times. Many had been without electricity for days. Grocery stores were running low on staples.

A report by the National Weather Service documented a record-breaking 51.88 inches of rain in Cedar Bayou, Texas, on August 29. Hurricane Harvey has brought what some are estimating to be trillions of gallons of water on the greater Houston area.

The water damage from flooding, which the New York Times reported on Friday went beyond the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s maps of anticipated damage, has done even more than cost people their homes.

Niles Tuihalangingie, a freshman from Humble, Texas, remembers how his neighborhood was affected by Hurricane Ike. Although he and his family did not have to leave their home, they lost power for three weeks, while food and water grew scarce.

“Hurricane season is a big thing in Houston. It’s talked about on the news constantly,” he said. People take their preparations seriously, stocking up on canned goods and water, but Harvey has been a test. “I kind of knew what was coming, but I didn’t know it would be this bad,” he said, shaking his head.

Texas residents who have come in contact with the floodwaters have also been exposed to anything the water picked up on its path. That can include anything from sewage, to pesticides, to dangerous bacteria, reported The Guardian and Business Insider on Wednesday.

The dangers posed by contaminated floodwaters are some of what motivates the facilities team at Linfield to maintain and repair campus buildings proactively. Student safety is a priority, said Allison Horn, director of facilities and auxiliary services.

“No news is good news,” she said. But when there is the possibility of flooding or water damage on campus, the team is ready to do whatever they can to “keep the systems working as designed” and to prevent students from being exposed to mold in the process.

Tim Stewart, who has been the cleaning services manager for 30 years, agreed. “You don’t want water to sit for more than 24 to 36 hours because then that’s where you start having some challenges,” he said. The sheetrock then starts to disintegrate, jeopardizing the structure’s stability.

Building trades superintendent Rick Carruth recalled having to replace three feet of drywall in a building after the flood of December 7, 2015. “I’ve seen a lot of rain,” he said, having worked on the facilities team for 34 years.

Both Stewart and Carruth can recall the 2015 flood as the worst they had seen in all their years at Linfield. The flooding of eight combined residence halls, campus buildings and residential rental properties was caused by excessive rain and a power outage that disabled three pumps, Horn said. The losses exceeded $700,000 and were covered by FEMA, but only because the state of the campus was declared a disaster.

If such flooding or worse were to impact the campus, Carruth and Stewart said, the priority would be to get students out of the affected areas and find them alternate housing if necessary. Afterwards, inventory of the damages would be taken and all of the moisture removed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

It is all a matter of perspective, though, Horn said. While a carpet replacement or the use of a water vacuum is not unusual for the facilities team, students may feel it has a larger impact on them, she said.

Tuihalangingie agreed, saying it is important to consider the people across the country who may be experiencing greater hardships than a damaged floor. “It’s much easier to have your carpet replaced than to have your home replaced,” he said.