By Rachel Stengel
Despite minor flooding, a few downed trees and a loss of electricity on Westminster’s campus, Rider University fared well during Hurricane Irene.
The Lawrenceville campus sustained “no major structural damage,” according to Anthony Campbell, dean of students. However, six trees fell down due to the storm: two behind the sorority houses, one behind Ridge House and three from neighboring areas. Several fences and a street light on the north edge of campus were damaged as a result. The trees, which fell behind the sorority houses, Ridge House and on the Westminster Campus, caused no damage, according to Mike Reca, associate vice president of Facilities and Auxiliary Services.
The Lawrenceville campus never lost electricity aside from West House, the new Public Safety building. The back-up generators allowed the building to be fully operational within two hours.
The Westminster campus was not so fortunate. Power was lost during the storm but restored by Tuesday, Aug. 30, according to Campbell. Generators provided back-up electricity and powered essential services such as fire alarms, refrigerators, computers in the library and the Student Center.
“All of buildings had minor flooding,” Campbell said, “but we were able to get it up ourselves. Nothing was damaged beyond repair.” Flood clean-up was completed by Aug. 31.
Aug. 28 was the intended move-in day for the Discovery Program, the Rider Achievement Program, the Multi-cultural Student Leadership Institute Program and the Dance Ensemble, but it was delayed until the next day. The Graduate Academic testing for WCC that was supposed to take place on Aug. 30 to Aug. 31 at the Lawrenceville campus.
The Westminster campus had roughly 10-15 students on campus for the storm. The Lawrenceville campus had various athletic teams, a full staff of Resident Advisors and Resident Directors, and students who assisted with orientation programs.
Erica Rubin, a member of the Orientation Staff, was one of the students on campus during the storm.
“I saw a lot of trees swaying violently, but did not witness any floods or excessive damage,” Rubin said. “After the storm passed, I drove around campus and was shocked to see that while several trees had smashed some fences around the back of campus, things such as construction cones and most of the parking lot gates were still intact.”
The campus is equipped with more than 10,000 bottles of water and a three-day supply of food in case of emergency, according to Reca and Campbell.
Resident Advisors and Resident Directors put their emergency training into place during the storm. RAs and RDs were equipped with flashlights, emergency kits and radios.
Courtney Ferrick, RD for Wright Hall explained the importance of such supplies.
“[The radios] were our form of communication during the hurricane,” Ferrick said. “We would correspond to Residence Life and Public Safety. For instance, if basements were flooding, we would call over to Public Safety.”
Flooding forced many local residents to evacuate their homes. Rider, in conjunction with Lawrence Township and Mercer County Emergency Management, utilized the Student Recreation Center as a transitional shelter for more than 500 local residents and approximately 65 pets (everything from a Great Dane to an iguana).
Hurricane Irene, which was first declared a Category 3 hurricane, battered the Bahamas on Aug. 24 before setting its sights on the United States. The storm made landfall in North Carolina on Aug. 27, at this point a Category 1 hurricane. Tornado warnings issued by the National Weather Service accompanied the heavy downpours and raging winds along the East Coast. Mandatory evacuations were enforced for many coastal cities; other centralized cities were placed under voluntary evacuation orders.
The slow-moving storm affected approximately 55 million Americans and killed 27. The White House estimated $1.5 billion will be needed to repair the damages inflicted by Irene.
Commuter student and Lawrenceville resident Sylwia Denko described the lasting impact of Irene on the Lawrenceville area.
“There were parts of Lawrence that were flooded,” Denko said. “Route 1 was shut down because it was under at least a foot of water which made Princeton Pike and Quakerbridge Road traffic heavy. Some people were literally trapped on their street because of water. Also, hundreds of people were left without power for days. It was estimated that some houses would not get their power back until Sept. 4, a week after the hurricane.”