The polar vortex that swept across the nation earlier this month wreaked havoc at John Carroll University, causing an estimated $20,000 to $30,000 worth of damage to offices and residence halls, according to Bernie Beyer, director of Physical Plant. On Wednesday, Jan. 8, Writer-in-Residence Rev. Donald Cozzens received a call about some unexpected news: His office had been flooded.
According to Beyer, the water damage that affected Cozzens’ office was caused by the frozen firewater lines that burst as a result of subzero temperatures.
“It was as if someone stood at the door with a fire hose,” said Cozzens. “Everything was soaked: books, files, class notes, correspondence, my original manuscripts, videos, DVDs. The floor was wet. The ceiling had come down. It was pretty much a mess.”
Cozzens wasn’t the only faculty member who was affected by the flooding. The frozen firewater lines that set off the sprinkler in Cozzens’ office on the third floor of O’Malley caused the water to seep throughout the rest of the English department, wreaking havoc on professors’ book collections, personal writings and class documents.
Large bins lined the hallway on the third floor of the O’Malley Center, where Cozzens pitched many of his water-damaged materials.
“This is one way I can simplify my life and thin out my library,” said Cozzens. “I was able to salvage about half of the books. Even though they’re water damaged, they open up. I can still use them.”
Cozzens’ next-door neighbor, English professor Phil Metres, also suffered the aftermath of the damages.
After receiving an email the same day Cozzens was alerted of the damages, Metres came to his office and discovered that almost all of the drafts of poems and book-manuscripts, book proofs and book correspondence that he kept from the past 20 years were drenched in water and destroyed.
Beyer also noted that the elevator located in the O’Malley building suffered significant damage.
“The water got out of control and entered into the elevator shaft, creating the need to replace the board and a small motor,” Beyer said.
Senior resident assistant Jess Lipold also encountered an unforeseen surprise when she returned to her residence in Pacelli Hall during the Spring RA training session.
“I saw water spilling out from the duty office, and began to jog over,” Lipold said.
Lipold said she saw water pour down from the ceiling and steam fill the duty office, damaging the ceiling and drywall.
According to Beyer, the hot water pipe erupted due to a line freezing.
The flooding also affected area coordinator Deanna Strauss’ apartment, which is next to the Pacelli duty office.
John Mack, assistant director of Residence Life, said that the department was able to catch the leak in its earlier stages and contain it.
Mack said that six residential rooms were affected in the basement of Pacelli.
“We were able to clean and dry all resident rooms that were affected in enough time for the residents to move back in. We made sure the carpet was clean, the rooms were disinfected and their laundry was washed,” said Mack.
Mack also said that Residence Life worked with the residents to make sure any problems were solved, and that water damages always fall under the University’s insurance.
Both Mack and Beyer said that a contractor will be hired to repair the ceiling in the duty office. Until then, the office has been moved to a temporary location across the hallway in one of the lounges.
Lipold said that until the duty office is restored, residents must refrain from using the lounge area.
In addition to Pacelli Hall, there were two other small leaks in residence halls: the first in Hamlin Hall in the stairwell of the fourth floor, due to a frozen pipe; the second, in Dolan Hall, caused one of the heaters to freeze.
“In the Dolan Center for Science & Technology, the sprinkler head that froze and erupted was in the vestibule down the hallway by the door that goes out towards Warrensville Center Road,” said Beyer. “The water accumulated on the floor into a storage room, the hallway and one of the classrooms.”
This did not do a significant amount of damage, and housekeeping was able to extract the water and dry the carpet.
There was also minor water damage to some of the drywall in the labs.
The Grasselli Library and Breen Learning Center also experienced some minor flooding according to Beyer.
“We had a frozen line in the library sub-basement. The cleanup was minimal, and there was no significant damage,” Beyer said.
“If we’re going to experience temperatures below 10 degrees, we will take precautionary steps to keep the water running in areas that we know are prone to frozen lines,” said Beyer. “We also advise that everybody should turn their heat up to a normal setting – around a three – when leaving their room.”
Connie Brooks, administrative services coordinator of the Grasselli Library, said that the library is one of the buildings on campus that has taken extra precautionary methods to prevent any significant water damage. Brooks said that there is a tarp on the third floor, which protects a large collection of books and materials.
Beyer, Mack and others also emphasized that the effects of the polar vortex are not exclusive to JCU.
“All that we’ve experienced is related to the cold weather,” said Beyer. “I cannot think of any of the failures that we’ve had that were a result of lack of maintenance or lack of attention.”
As the JCU community moves forward with the semester, many affected by the damages have taken an optimistic approach.
Metres posted his reaction to the damage in his office on Facebook after he discovered his archives had been destroyed: “I read some correspondence from various editors and friends who’d commented on my work. I was struck, suddenly, not by the waste of it – my own slow and messy process, the destruction of all those layers – but by gratitude to all the people who have been part of my journey as a writer, whose support by their reading and critiquing made me feel a little less crazy and the work so much better. So thank you, if you have been one of those courage-companions.”
Both Cozzens and Beyer also expressed their gratitude to the support of the faculty and staff, and the accuracy and efficiency displayed by the facilities department.
“I could not have received more help, assistance and sympathy from the theology and English departments,” said Cozzens. “The facilities people who take care of the infrastructure were fantastic. The staff and administration did their best to help me move everything out and let it dry before the start of the semester.”
“This display of character is typical at John Carroll. And for that, I’m grateful,” said Cozzens.