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Tufts avoids worst of Hurricane Sandy

Published: Friday, November 2, 2012

Updated: Friday, November 2, 2012 08:11


Justin McCallum for the Tufts Daily

The effects of Hurricane Sandy swept through campus this Monday, resulting in widespread tree damage and minor power outages.

Tufts’ campuses and surrounding areas suffered only minor damage from Hurricane Sandy on Monday, in part thanks to abated storm conditions and advance preparedness of administrators.

Director of Public and Environmental Safety Kevin Maguire said that in emergency situations such as severe weather storms, an Emergency Operations Center is formed by representatives from various campus offices, including Public and Environmental Safety, Tufts University Police Department, Public Relations, the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs and Facilities Services.

From Saturday evening through late Monday night, Maguire and other members of this emergency operations team monitored the storm via updates from the National Weather Service and Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, using these sources to assess the safety conditions on all three of Tufts’ campuses.

Before re−opening the university after its closure on Monday, the group primarily assessed wind levels, which had been gusting at 60 to 70 miles per hour in the heart of the storm on Monday afternoon but had substantially subsided to around 25 miles per hour by the evening, Maguire said.

“Facilities was on campus all night long moving branches, cleaning up trees, making sure the campus was ready for Tuesday morning,” Maguire said. “Tuesday morning, the police assessed the campus and determined that we could open safely.”

“There were only minor flooding problems, rain wasn’t the issue,” Maguire added. “We were very lucky in that we didn’t lose much power. No one was hurt, no one was injured. There was wind damage to trees that were older, but by and large, there wasn’t much damage.”

In total there were approximately 10 significant cases of fallen trees and branches on the Medford/Somerville campus, such as a large branch blocking access to the Dowling Hall footbridge, Maguire said.

On the Medford/Somerville campus, power was unaffected except in five smaller buildings: Crafts House, the Hillside House, the Africana Center, the Department of Art and Art History at 11 Talbot Ave. and the Latino Center and Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center. Students residing in any of these buildings were placed in alternative housing until power was restored, Vice President of Operations Linda Snyder said.

“We were extraordinarily fortunate, when you look at how devastating the storm was in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, lower Manhattan,” Snyder said.

The Grafton campus was the hardest hit by the storm, losing power for two days, according to Snyder.

Maguire said that the adverse impact of electricity loss was minimized thanks to several generators, and classes at Grafton were able to resume on Tuesday. There was no damage to the Boston campus, according to Maguire.

Snyder said preparation before the storm helped to limit damage, as Facilities in particular made sure many tree limbs were in solid shape and manholes were cleaned out. She said she heard of incidents on campus where students helped staff over the course of the storm. For example, where low−level flooding was beginning over a blocked manhole, a student helped quickly prevent further flooding by poking the clogged holes with his ski poles.

“It was an extraordinarily cooperative set of events,” Snyder said. “There was a really nice atmosphere, and I think that it speaks greatly of Tufts.”

In off−campus residencies, some upperclassmen faced prolonged power outages. Micaela Bell, a senior residing in Medford, said that although her house lost electricity for over 48 hours, she and her housemates took it in stride.

“Certain things were difficult ... not having Internet, not being able to charge things,” Bell said. “But in perspective, it wasn’t that bad. With a little candlelight, we could manage.”

She added that it was also helpful to have access to power on campus and at friends’ houses.

In a press release, the City of Somerville said that over 1,600 power outages and 200 fallen or uprooted trees were reported by Tuesday. Somerville Director of Communications Tom Champion said the city had to keep schools closed on both Monday and Tuesday due to damages incurred by the hurricane, such as significant roof damage at Somerville High School.

Champion said that electricity was restored in Somerville by early Wednesday, but clean−up efforts around the city are ongoing.

“We still have a lot of work to do where we have a lot of significant damage, particularly to the schools and parks, as well as street signs and other street damage,” Champion told the Daily. “We’re going to be at it for a while.”

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