Big bad nor’easter huffs, puffs but College stands

With a little luck and the fast work of employees in Grounds and Landscaping, the College was able to avoid large-scale flooding on campus during last week’s nor’easter.

The storm, which forced acting Gov. Richard J. Codey to declare a state of emergency in New Jersey, dumped five inches of rain on Ewing and caused flood damage to hundreds of homes in the region.

On-campus workers were prepared to deal with the deluge.

“My guys were out there cleaning out the gutters and making sure that the drains were clear when it started to come down,” Tom Hasty, head grounds worker, said.

Hasty praised his grounds crew and on-campus plumbers for staying on top of the situation and making sure that water accumulation on the ground was minimal.

Nevertheless, Hasty recognized that there are still trouble spots on campus where large puddles tend to form during rainstorms.

These include the sidewalk between the New Library and Eickhoff Hall, the lawn in front of Green Hall and the area surrounding the parking lot by Decker Hall.

Hasty said that ensuring proper drainage is a matter of locating these trouble spots on campus and marshalling the resources to fix them, usually as a construction project.

“In some cases, like with the trails leading to Brower, you just have concrete that has settled, and there’s no drain there to empty it,” he said.

Plumbers recently installed drains at the side of the Wolfe Hall dormitory. For safety’s sake, a temporary retaining wall was erected in the area before the nor’easter hit.

Ironically, the only spot that flooded at the College during the nor’easter, according to Hasty, was the Facilities parking lot, where Grounds and Landscaping workers park their cars.

Other locations across the county and in western New Jersey were not so lucky or well-prepared.

Despite the five inches of rain, Lakes Sylva and Ceva did not flood during the nor’easter.

According to Hasty, the College follows a dam emergency plan to make sure that the two lakes on campus do not overflow onto the grounds.

“We monitor the dam monthly to make sure we know where the water levels are so we can prepare for when a big storm is about to hit,” he said.

When water levels become dangerously high, workers open flood gates to allow water to safely drain from either of the lakes.

“Basically, it’s a never-ending cycle,” he said. “On rainy days, it’s our main concern to just get out there and make sure that the drains on campus and the gutters on the road in front of the school are clear.”

Hasty said he was both relieved and impressed to see that so little flooding occurred on campus.

“Five inches, that’s a lot of water,” he said. “But we didn’t see as much water on the ground as you’d expect for this kind of storm.”

“I’ve seen a lot worse,” Hasty said. “Overall, we were pretty good.”

Areas along the Delaware River and many streams surrounding it were flooded following the storm.

According to an April 18 article in The Star-Ledger, Codey said more than 5,000 people evacuated their homes as a result of flooding that caused “tens and tens and tens of millions” of dollars in damage.

Many more were left without power for several days.

Codey called on President Bush to declare New Jersey a major disaster area before water began to recede during the week.

The storm formed when a cold front from the west collided with warmer air moving up from the south.

It was further powered by cold air from the Arctic, resulting in several days of rain.