Sandy’s impact at the College, damage on campus

Strong winds from Hurricane Sandy cause a tree to fall behind the Travers and Wolfe Towers last week. (Jamie Primeau / Editor-in-Chief)

This year’s fall break was extended longer than usual due to circumstances resulting from Hurricane Sandy.

Striking the East Coast with gusts of wind and rain on the evening of Monday, Oct. 29, the superstorm left unprecedented damage across the state.

Because of the power outages and extent of damage in New Jersey, campus was closed through Friday, Nov. 2.

“The total damage to the College was approximately $105,000,” said Matthew Golden, assistant vice president for Communications and College Relations, in an email. “This number will change as we get bids and estimates on the repair work, investigate warranties, insurance claims and assistance from the government.”

According to Golden, a preliminary assessment of damage included downed trees and limbs, roofing damage, broken windows and skylights, broken bench seating, ceiling damage due to leaks, fencing damage, damage to site lights, batting cage damage, a damaged generator and downed power lines.

None of the College’s residence halls lost power, but academic buildings and the Library did, according to an email sent to the students on Oct. 30. During that time period, students who were not on campus were advised to not return until Saturday, Nov. 3.

There were approximately 400 students on campus during the storm. The dorms were provided with power through the cogeneration power plant on campus, Golden explained.

“The College’s electrical infrastructure is being used by the local utility, PSE&G, to bridge a gap in their system to feed power to the Ewing community,” Golden said. “Until this gap is repaired by the utility, the College’s co-gen plant will operate in what is called ‘island mode,’ which protects much of the residential side of the College from outside electrical disruptions. While in island mode, our local substation, which predominantly powers academic buildings, is at risk for power outages if PSE&G has a disruption.”

Throughout the week, College Relations provided updates via email and text message to the College community.
The school also provided resources and assistance to its students, faculty and staff during the tough time. Faculty, staff members and their families were allowed to use Recreation Center showers over the weekend and could eat in the Dining Hall, Golden said.

“Our Facilities, Campus Police Services, Student Affairs, and Trenton State College Corporation staff did an incredible job of protect the campus and the community so that we could be up and running for classes on November 5,” Golden said. “Our Critical Incident Planning Group also did exemplary work in helping guide TCNJ through this storm.”

On Monday, President R. Barbara Gitenstein sent an email to the College community, acknowledging that some students and their families have experienced devastation from the storm and its aftermath.

“Our hope, as an institution, is that you can return to normal college life as quickly as possible,” Gitenstein’s email stated. “And we consider it our job, as college leaders, to help make that transition as easy as possible. We are concerned for your welfare, the welfare of your families, and for your continued success.”

Gitenstein encouraged anyone experiencing Sandy-related hardship to contact Student Affairs and explore options for aid through sources such as FEMA.

She concluded the messaging by saying, “Together, we can help each other overcome any challenge this disaster may have caused.”