Sept. 3, 2021: Campus Recovery Update Post Hurricane Ida

Hurricane Ida Recovery – Campus Update – Friday, September 3

Editor’s note: The following update is a reposted message from University President Dr. Crain.

hope everyone remains safe and healthy as we near the completion of the first full week of recovery efforts following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ida.

Events like major hurricanes affect people in extraordinary ways.  These events both challenge and change us in ways that we cannot fathom before the fact, but they also bring us together and make us stronger.  Make no mistake, our institution and our people are resilient; through hard work, resolve, collaboration, patience and empathy we will recover.

While campus recovery efforts are focused on debris cleanup, facility damage assessment and repair as well as power restoration, I realize that beyond the campus, disruption of electric service remains a challenge for many people across southeast Louisiana, affecting our students, faculty, staff and their families.  Likewise, many individuals’ homes and/or vehicles suffered significant damage from the storm, impacting their ability to resume normal work and learning.

For these reasons, as well as those I will detail below, the campus will remain closed at least through September 10.  More updates and progress reports will be provided next week, including a timeline for potential campus reopening and/or resumption of operations.  In order for recovery progress to continue, supervisors may contact additional essential personnel to assist with recovery efforts.  Reasonable advance notice will be provided.

Given this decision, the Academic Continuity Plan will continue in the “Closed” phase through September 10.  In addition, due to the severity of damages, widespread problems with communications and the length of the closure, there are no expectations of course activity. Course assignments, activities and deadlines will be re-scheduled after we resume operations.  Students and faculty should focus on individual needs and those of their families.  A closure of this duration will require modification of our academic calendar and perhaps other changes, and I have asked our Provost, Dr. Tena L. Golding, to work with our deans and other academic leaders who can be reached electronically to begin formulating a detailed academic recovery plan.  More information about this will be shared with the campus community as it becomes available.

I want to thank all of our people who have worked so hard during and after Hurricane Ida.  For example, leading up to, during and in the wake of the storm, our University Police officers have worked double shifts to ensure the safety of our people and the security of our facilities.  Likewise, essential staff with our Physical Plant Department working with our Campus Safety office have been toiling in the brutal heat every day following the storm, working to clear the campus of debris, assess the damage and secure/repair facilities.  Staff in Student Affairs, University Housing and Dining Services have helped support and care for our students that had to remain and ride out the storm on campus.  University Advancement staff have worked to simplify the process for concerned alumni and other supporters to provide financial assistance in our recovery efforts.

I also want to thank Dr. Henderson and the UL System leadership team, as well as colleagues and friends at our sister UL institutions for their assistance.  Likewise, members of our Board of Supervisors have been concerned and supportive during this challenging time.

I will continue to update our campus community as more information is available.

Stay safe!  Lion Up!

The following information is provided for those who are interested in more specific details about various aspects of the recovery efforts:

Campus Damage Remediation

Our Physical Plant crews, supplemented by private contractors as necessary, have made great progress in clearing trees and debris from campus.  Over the course of this work, we expect more than 200 trees that were either brought down or severely damaged by hurricane winds will be removed from campus.  Numerous smaller trees and shrubs were also destroyed in the storm.

Campus buildings that received direct damage by falling trees:

​Clark Hall and Clark Hall Annex

​Contemporary Arts Gallery

​Cardinal Newman Hall

​Alumni Center

​Financial Aid Building (North Campus)

​President’s Residence

In all of these cases, the tree(s) have been removed and temporary repairs are being made to mitigate further water damage.  More permanent repairs are in process.

In addition to the damage to these facilities caused by fallen trees, Pottle Hall Annex sustained substantial wind damage and the Columbia Theater has significant water damage.

Staff from Physical Plant are conducting a full assessment of campus facilities, including room-by-room inspection of student residential buildings.

Residential Students

As I shared in a prior update, residential students who were not able to safely travel home were sheltered during the storm in the University Center.  Staff from University Housing, Student Affairs and University Police sheltered with them to ensure the students were safe and comfortable.  Following the storm, the students were moved to the Pennington Center and eventually allowed to return to their rooms in residential facilities.  Throughout this time Campus Dining staff provided meals.  The ongoing lack of power, along with related HVAC and other necessities and amenities, led us to move the remaining students to residential facilities at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

International Students

As you might expect, some of the residential students who had to remain on campus during the storm were international students.  In the days following the storm, Student Affairs staff became aware of a group of students, including international students, residing near campus who were unable to secure food and water.  Our staff arranged for them to gain access to the campus food pantry and also provided transportation to a local grocery store for some to acquire provisions.

Gasoline Shortage

With widespread power outages ongoing since the storm, the availability of gasoline has been a growing challenge, with some university staff essential to recovery efforts reporting difficulty getting enough fuel to travel to campus.  Some staff reported traveling as far away as Baton Rouge in search of gasoline.  Electric service has recently been restored to some areas on the north end of Tangipahoa Parish, and the hope is this will help ease the fuel challenge as stations in that area are able to reopen.

Restoration of Electric Utility Service

Clearly, one of the most significant hurdles to recovering normal operations on campus is the restoration of electric service.  Staff with Entergy continue to assess the damage and make repairs, but we are told that restoration is complicated by the significant damage done to major transmission lines and sub-stations.  This complication, in conjunction with the extreme wind damage to utility poles and lines across the region, means full restoration could take weeks.