Hurricane Irene teases Hanover, destroys Vt.

by Laura Bryn Sisson | 9/13/11 10:00pm

Despite severe weather warnings, Hurricane Irene did not cause any major damage to campus, College Proctor and Director of Safety and Security Harry Kinne said in an interview with The Dartmouth.

"The damage was mostly related to water leaks," he said. "None were of a magnitude that created a hazard or huge problem for the College."

Hurricane Irene hit the New England region as a tropical storm in the last week of August after ravaging areas of the Caribbean, the mid-Atlantic and the Tri-State area.

Leading up to the storm, the College was concerned that "some buildings would begin to leak or have structural damage" due to the projected eight to 10 inches of rainfall, Kinne said.

Following a forecast of flooding and dangerous wind gusts, Summer term final exams originally slated to take place on Aug. 28 and Aug. 29 were rescheduled to Aug. 30, according to Justin Anderson, director of media relations for the College.

"We decided it would be best not to conduct exams because we were encouraging everybody to remain indoors, and the forecast indicated it would not be wise to be outside," Anderson said.

In an unprecedented move for the College, Collis and Baker-Berry Library were closed in the midst of the Summer term final examinations period, when the storm was expected to hit New Hampshire the hardest, according to Kinne.

During the storm, College officials encouraged students to stay inside and remain up to date on outside weather conditions. In an e-mail sent to students at 1:45 p.m. on Aug. 28, Kinne warned that "Hanover will begin to feel the worst of the storm by [3 p.m.] this afternoon which will continue through the early morning hours on Monday."

That morning, however, was marked by drizzle and winds much milder than predicted.

Throughout the day, Dartmouth administrators received information on the storm's progress and strength from the New Hampshire Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and connected with other state officials in a conference call with the director of the National Weather Service, Kinne said.

"Even at noon Sunday the information was that we would have a lull and then more severe wind and rain," he said. "They were pleasantly surprised, as were we, when the storm took a northwestern track and weakened."

In anticipation of students being forced inside by the storm, free sandwiches and snacks were distributed by Dartmouth Dining Services to residence halls on Aug. 27. Collis and Novak Cafes were closed Aug. 28, but the Courtyard Cafe at the Hopkins Center remained open.

Rescheduled exams caused many to change their travel plans, according to students interviewed by The Dartmouth.

Sharon Zhang '13 said her Linear Algebra with Applications final was moved from Aug. 28 to Aug. 30, which led her to leave campus two days later than she had originally planned.

"My airline changed my flight for free because of the hurricane, so it wasn't a big deal," she said.

Anderson said he encouraged students who had experienced difficulties with travel arrangements to contact the Dean of the College's Office for assistance.

The Tucker Foundation coordinated various relief responses to Upper Valley communities that were severely affected by the storm, according to Helen Damon-Moore, director of service and educational programs at the Tucker Foundation.

"We knew our primary job was to organize so that people didn't just go around in circles," Damon-Moore said.

The Tucker Foundation accepted donations of repair supplies and cash contributions to help purchase construction tools, according to Damon-Moore.

In the aftermath of the storm, Tucker provided employees and students with information about volunteering with relief efforts, Damon-Moore said. Athletic teams that are on campus for pre-season training, such as the football team, are planning to volunteer, according to Damon-Moore. The College is also offering a day of paid leave to employees who want to volunteer in storm relief, she said.

Payroll advances and employee loans are available to College employees affected by the storm, College President Jim Yong Kim said in a message to the community on the College website.

Although the College sustained no major damage, other rural areas of Vermont and New Hampshire experienced significant problems in the wake of Hurricane Irene. Simon Pearce restaurant in Quechee, Vt., and historic bridges in the area experienced major flooding.

"In Hanover and some parts of Lebanon there is no or very little damage, and in other places within two miles they're really devastated," Damon-Moore said.

The patchy nature of the storm's destruction left undamaged areas with the resources to help more affected areas, she said.

The Tucker Foundation's physical plant was one of the most affected buildings on campus. The damage was anticipated due to the building's age, however, and nearby College resources have minimized the impact of the damage, Damon-Moore said.

"We've had thousands of gallons of water in our basement, but the College was able to post people [there], so they were pumping as it happened," she said. "Because we're an older building, we get flooding when it rains."

Some students also encountered difficulties with flooding. Meeta Prakash '13 said the basement of her off-campus house flooded, but that her "landlord isn't doing anything about it yet."

Erin Klein '13 said the hurricane caused damages to her car that cost her over $100 to fix.

"Rain leaked into my car and onto my speakers so my battery died," she said.

The College began planning its response to the storm on Aug. 26, shifting the discussions in a previously planned emergency preparedness meeting to a Hurricane Irene planning session, Kinne said.

"When the storm moved up the coast, we brought people from across campus from the professional schools, the Dean of the College's Office, the Town of Hanover, athletics, real estate, health management, Safety and Security anyone likely to be affected by a storm to keep them in the loop and make sure everyone had the resources they needed to address the storm," he said.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!