September 8, 2011

University Closes Thursday After Heavy Rain

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Tompkins County and surrounding areas experienced a deluge of rain as Tropical Storm Lee traveled through Ithaca on Wednesday, leading the University to cancel morning classes on Thursday.

Cornell officials have begun to assess the damage from the storm. According to Cornell Police Chief Kathy Zoner, Cornell largely escaped the rain’s wrath.

“Three buildings had leaks that resulted in minor damage,” she stated in an email. “Some ceiling tiles or flooded basements, and there were several trees and limbs that came down on walkways and Cornell Plantations trails.”

Removal efforts began Thursday morning, Zoner said, and are expected to be complete by Friday afternoon.

Zoner said the University canceled classes at 5 a.m. Thursday after the Tompkins County Sheriff closed roads in Tompkins County due to concerns about flooding. Classes resumed at 11 a.m.

“The University policy clearly directs that if the sheriff closes the roads, the University closes,” Zoner said.

Zoner said that she is unaware of any previous incidents of the University closing because of flooding.

“I don’t know of any [other] times ever due to flooding — only winter storms,” she said.

Joe Lalley, director of administration and operations support for facilities services, said the heavy rain could damage the gorge walls, but it is still unclear as to whether they were damaged.

“The water level is still quite high, so we’ll see in a few days,” Lalley said.

Although no serious flooding was reported on campus, University officials cautioned students to stay away from the gorges near campus. Waters are high and the cliff faces of the gorges may be unstable, Zoner said.

“The gorges are dangerous to begin with. They are absolutely deadly in conditions like this,” Lalley said.

Zoner echoed Lalley’s sentiments.

“The problem is even though the rains stops, the water doesn’t,” Zoner said. “We want people to stay out of the gorges.”

Katerina Athanasiou ’13, market manager of the Farmers’ Market at Cornell and The Sun’s science editor, said that the torrential downpours prevented the market from opening as expected on Thursday.

“I woke up for classes and received emails from the school and from a couple of vendors saying the conditions on the road were bad,” Athanasiou said. “Because the University was closed, we decided to cancel the farmer’s market.”

While Cornellians faced little damage from Tropical Storm Lee, surrounding areas were hit hard by the storm.

As a result, some University employees who lived in other counties were unable to come to work.

“It becomes the employee’s choice,” Zoner said. “It depends if they live in another county and if their roads are closed.”

Record rain prompted Binghamton University to cancel classes after 3 p.m. on Wednesday and for all of Thursday and Friday, as well as suspend bus services, according to B.U.’s website.

The City of Binghamton ordered a mandatory evacuation due to the flooding of the Susquehanna and Chenango Rivers, and the campus provided shelter to hundreds of Binghamton area residents seeking refuge from the flood.

Buses and boats were used to evacuate some of Binghamton’s residents and National Guard helicopters were on standby, the Associated Press reported.

Original Author: Alyson Warhit