A tree behind Stocker Center smashed the cab of this Cone Penetrometer Truck on Friday

Photo courtesy of: Russ College of Engineering and Technology

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University praised for response to severe storm

Ohio University activated its Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) Friday evening after learning that power was not going to be restored quickly after severe storms hit around 5:30 p.m.

With students and visitors on campus, the CIRT team, comprised of leadership from the university administration, acted quickly. Its efforts paid off, with no injuries or other problems reported - and special recognition from the governor.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Saturday declared a state of emergency for the entire state and after speaking with President Roderick J. McDavis, praised the University, city and county's response to the disaster. In a conference call, the governor told media he believed communities throughout Ohio could learn from the swift response in Athens.

"It was a perfect example of the university working with the city working with the county," Kasich said. 

McDavis also commented on the recovery efforts.

"The aftermath of this past weekend's storm created critical public safety and health concerns for members of our community, for our faculty, for our staff and for our students," McDavis said. "I am very proud of the thoughtfulness, care, concern and immediate response by our University, Athens, and county officials, who came together to address the critical situation. Of top concern was addressing the needs of the people living in our area who were directly impacted by this storm. I want to thank the response teams for their great work and assistance. I also want to thank the governor for his kind words and support to us and, more importantly, his attention, care and concern for our city, county and region. We are a community and we take care of one another. It is the right thing and the Ohio University way."

Immediately after Friday's storm, University backup and emergency power systems were activated to ensure the safety of students and conference and camp attendees, and to maintain critical research activities. Ohio University Police Department called in additional officers to help. Given the unknown length of the power outage, President McDavis closed the Athens, Lancaster, Pickerington, Eastern and Chillicothe campuses through Monday morning.

In Athens, the University assisted emergency personnel with the use of generators, which continue to operate the Athens Sewage Plant and a Le-Ax water pumping station in Albany. It also opened diesel fuel tanks to emergency responders.

On campus, Shively Dining Hall, the Central Foods facility and Baker University Center remained open over the weekend through the use of generators, providing food and cooling stations for community residents and students, staff and guests residing on campus. Full power to the Athens campus was restored Saturday.

Though minimal, the University experienced some damage from high winds and downed limbs and trees, said Mike Gebeke, executive director of Facilities Management. A fallen tree behind Stocker Center smashed the cab of a parked Cone Penetrometer Truck that measures soil strength for foundation design and pavement evaluation flatbed truck, and roughly 200 feet of fencing at Bob Wren Stadium was destroyed. 

On regional campuses, only Lancaster sustained damage in the form of a downed tree on campus and lost phone service to the Pickerington and Lancaster campus which was restored this morning.

Brian Thompson, director of Auxiliaries, said Culinary Services lost minimal product from the power outages.

No significant damage occurred to any culinary venues. In collaboration with several supporting departments, Culinary Services also participated in the opening of Baker as a cooling station and assisted in providing food and beverages to campus and the community on Saturday and Sunday.

Gebeke said his staff worked tirelessly for more than 30 consecutive hours in the wake of the storm - electricians, plumbers, maintenance, custodial, grounds, preventive maintenance and HVAC personnel among them.

"Our workers need to be thanked for all their efforts," he said. "I'm very thankful to them for being dedicated to their jobs. Many of them don't have power at their own homes and they are still working to make sure the campus conditions are restored to normal."

Thompson also praised the response of the Culinary Services staff, saying in addition to the previously scheduled Shively Court staff, approximately 12 additional staff members came to campus to support ongoing efforts within operations and working overall to support University commitments in aiding the overall surrounding community.

In addition to ensuring the safety of campus, a coordinated effort has also been underway since the beginning of the power outage to protect research facilities on campus. According to Joe Shields, vice
president for research, there is no significant damage to any of the research facilities maintained by his office, including the Edison Biotechnology Institute, the Innovation Center and the Research and Technology building.

Additional research facilities in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and Clippinger Labs report no damage to any of their facilities.

The University's efforts over the weekend were, and continue to be, focused on the health and safety of the community and the maintenance of key research activities. A thorough assessment of the storm impact and clean up and repair activities will continue well into the week.

As crews continue to clean up limbs, branches and debris on campus, and Gebeke urges people to pay extra attention to avoid hanging branches and limbs that may still exist in some areas of campus. He added that his office is currently putting together a list of employee needs, such as ice, laundry facilities, hot water, food and more, and asks employees in need of assistance to please contact Facilities Management at 740-593-2911.