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Sandy uproots campus

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Students walk past a root ball of the remains of one of Drew's many downed trees after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the campus last week (Photo by Justin Camejo)
Students walk past a root ball of the remains of one of Drew's many downed trees after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the campus last week (Photo by Justin Camejo)

Students walk past a root ball of the remains of one of Drew’s many downed trees after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the campus last week (Photo by Justin Camejo)

For the second year in a row, Drew University was struck by a series of devastating storms. Unlike the situation with the snowstorm in October, Superstorm Sandy and the nor‘easter that hit on Wendesday was less of a challenge for Facilities, Public Safety and the housing departments, whose efforts resulted in the successful re-opening of the college.

Michael Kopas, the executive director of Facilities, spoke about the severity of the storm, but also how prepared the college was before it hit. “This storm was different from last year’s storm. The storm that hit last October was harder to predict,” Kopas said. “This time we had the news channels to inform us and we were able to get ready for Sandy.”

“We were able to clear patio furniture outside, bring garbage cans in, have tables turned over. We also had portable generators as back-up and had personnel waiting at hand,” he said. “We knew the power was going to go out.” Because of that knowledge, all Facilities and Public Safety had to do was stand by when the power went out.

According to Kopas, Drew University gets its power from one of the seven lines in Madison. There are backup lines if these fail called JCP&L lines. The problem was that the backup lines failed as quickly as the Madison lines. “Those lines feed the power into Madison. The backup ones are there in case the Madison ones fail,” Kopas said.

“Once they did fail, we did the best we could to prevent further damage. We shut down the power systems in the University buildings to avoid any surges.”“We were stop three on the list to get our power back. Once we had the power restored, we were able to mobilize and take care of the damage on campus,” Kopas said. Drew lost power on Sunday, the night the storm began, and power was restored Thursday evening. “The first thing we wanted to do was pick up all of the fallen trees,” he said. “The night of the actual storm, eight trees fell down, and this was only on the campus. The trees that fell down in the Arboretum aren’t included here.”

After the storm was over, it was reported that 24 trees in total fell down. “The tree that caused the most damage was the one behind Foster. It landed on a transformer,” Kopas said. “Luckily, this was the only one that was affected. And another one is on the way,” he said. “[It] fell behind Brown and we had to contract a crane to remove it.”Kopas recounts that what each department learned best from the storm was how cooperation can resolve problems.

“The evacuation plan was very successful. We knew there wasn’t going to be any power or heat so we wanted to send students home, whether to their own or to their friend’s,” Kopas said. “Once this was accomplished, the ones that remained were moved elsewhere. The Grad and Theo students were okay because they live in apartment style dorms. But the remainder of the students were taken to Chatham Church by Dean Kuan.”  This plan, along with the cooperation of the different departments on campus, was what contributed to the success of the evacuation plan and the clean-up afterwards. “All of the departments were incredibly cooperative. Facilities, Public Safety, Reslife and Student Affairs were such a big help,” Kopas said. “Their input was essential to the way everything went. We would have meetings every day the power was out to discuss what the next step was going to be, and it worked.”