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Flood Focus: Heavy Rains Strike University, Region


By Dan Hounsell Emergency Preparedness

Heavy rains and flooding are among the most challenging crises that can strike institutional and commercial facilities. There is no way to prepare for or control the amount of rain that falls in a given area, and once on the ground, water is difficult to direct or contain, and it packs tremendous power and finds the smallest openings in a facility’s defenses.

The flood preparations of many facilities have been tested in recent days as a strong weather system drenched the Central United States. Heavy rains have caused rivers to rise throughout the region, leading to widespread flooding from Texas to Michigan, according to USA Today. At least three people have been killed in the flooding, one each in Michigan, Illinois and Oklahoma, the Weather Channel said.

Though the rain has stopped in some areas, several rivers soon are forecast to reach major flood stage in the region, AccuWeather said. In one 48-hour period during the downpours, more than a month's worth of rain fell on some locations in the Central United States.

Read: One university learns lessons from historic campus flooding

For maintenance and engineering managers and others involved in emergency preparedness for their organizations, heavy rains and flooding put their plan to a tough test. Consider Michigan State University, which is coping with the most significant flooding on campus in more than 40 years, says interim President John Engler, according to The Detroit News. Engler says water levels on the Red Cedar River, which runs through campus, are the highest since 1975, when they reached 12 feet. The river was above 9 feet recently, and flood stage is at 7 feet, according to the National Water Information System.

Read: Smart planning helps university avoid flood-related disaster

Engler says the university is prepared but wants the public and students to be aware of the problems caused by the high water. University staff planned to work nearly around the clock erecting framed plastic barriers filled with sand along the river.

Lynda Boomer, the university’s director of planning design and construction, says the university will keep 1,200 feet of barrier up until spring. Engler says classes were being moved out of buildings at risk for flooding, including the Kresge Art Gallery, Jenison Field House, computer center and the IM Sports Circle.

This Quick Read was submitted by Dan Hounsell — dan.hounsell@tradepressmedia.com — editor-in-chief of Facility Maintenance Decisions.

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