Working Together During Hurricane Sandy

by Celina De León
President Chopp helps serves lunch Monday afternoon in Sharples.
Photo by The Daily Gazette

 

After two days of severe weather as a result of Hurricane Sandy, Swarthmore College reopened today and resumed classes.

"We weathered Hurricane Sandy well at Swarthmore and were far more fortunate than many others in its path. Our thoughts are very much with those of you who have family members or friends, homes, or family businesses directly impacted by the storm's ferocity," says President Rebecca Chopp in a message to the College community. "Please do reach out to others if you or your family are suffering as a direct result of the storm. We want to support you and we will hold all those in the light who have suffered loss as a result of Sandy."

As expected with a storm of this magnitude, there were a series of storm-related outages in the Swarthmore area on Monday night, including one on campus. College generators kicked in to ensure emergency lighting was available in the residence halls and Sharples Dining Hall, which had continuous backup power. College staff worked with the local power company to fully restore power on campus, which occurred by mid-afternoon Tuesday.

"A special note of appreciation goes to our students who experienced the power outage and severe weather with good humor and in a spirit of community building and eagerness to help one another," says Stu Hain, vice president for facilities and services. "My deepest thanks, as well, to the environmental services, dining, and facilities staff members who put in long hours under some very difficult circumstances."

Swarthmore's facilities, public safety, dining services, and residential life offices worked around the clock to ensure students were safe and well cared for no matter what Hurricane Sandy brought to the region. Foreseeing that the most dangerous conditions on campus would likely be caused by falling branches and trees, students were advised not to go outside, particularly during the height of the storm or if conditions deteriorated.

In anticipation of the storm, record amounts of food were served on Monday during breakfast and lunch. As students left the dining hall for lunch on Monday, they were provided with the necessary fixings for a deli-type, takeout dinner to keep them inside when the storm made landfall that evening and to enable dining services staff to leave for their homes by 4 p.m., before conditions were expected to worsen in our area. This allowed students to minimize the amount of time they needed to travel outdoors.

"A special thanks to students who helped other students who could not make it in to the dining hall due to illness or other factors," says Linda McDougall, director of dining services.

President Chopp and other College administrators stood at the helm of Monday's lunch line to hand take-home cartons to students and to remind them to fill them up and to stay in their dorm rooms. "I think our students are pretty good about watching out for each other," Chopp says. Her actions were also meant to serve as a "comforting presence" and as a thank you to dining services staff, 100 percent of whom reported to work.

Parents and alumni shared well wishes on the College's website and social media platforms as Hurricane Sandy approached the area.

"When I was in school, we went to class during Hurricanes...and we walked up hill in the snow BOTH WAYS. (Just kidding...stay safe!)," wrote Erin Dwyer-Frazier '05 on the College's Facebook page.

Faculty and students also shared posts of appreciation on Twitter for staff working to keep the College and its students safe and fed throughout the storm.

"Many thanks to staff @Swarthmore College who are braving #sandyinphilly to feed and care for students during the storm," posted the Peace & Conflict Studies Department on the College's Twitter handle.

Monday evening during the height of the storm, RAs were prepared with a full lineup of activities for students. There were board games, movie screenings, and, in the spirit of Halloween, ghost story telling for once it got dark.

The initial phase of the storm caused some minor flooding in campus buildings. A tree hit Ashton House, the College's guest house, causing minor damage to the exterior. None of its guests were harmed or needed to evacuate. By Tuesday afternoon, it was safe to walk on campus, and by Tuesday evening the College announced all mechanical systems were stabilized and that it would be running at full capacity.

"Great work Swarthmore emergency team. Thanks for taking care of our sons and daughters!!!" wrote Carolina Roca, mother of Adriana Obiols '16 on the College's website.

The trees of Swarthmore's arboretum were also in the community's thoughts as news broke that Swarthmore College was reopening.

"I'm glad to read the College seems to have made it through the storm well and all are safe. When someone has time, please report on the state of the trees," wrote Irisita Azar '77, an alum watching from California.

Happily, the trees on campus withheld the powerful gusts of Hurricane Sandy well.