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Winter storm inflicts minimal damage to campus

Submitted by Cameron Moix on January 13, 2013 – 10:25 pmNo Comment

The winter storm that hit campus Christmas Day left the awning and part of the wall near Printing Services in shambles. Photo courtesy of Sandra Vail


While the winter-weather system that swept into Arkansas Christmas Day left many without power and debris strewn across the state, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock campus received minimal storm damage, according to university officials.

The winter storm, which entered central Arkansas from the northwest early Dec. 25, never directly caused the university to lose power and created mostly just cosmetic damage, said officials from the department of facilities management.

Only a small section of the campus lost power, which resulted from Entergy Arkansas Inc. repairing nearby lines, according to Dave Millay, associate vice chancellor of facilities management. Entergy, the state’s largest electrical utility, dealt with the task of restoring power to about 265,000 customers in the state throughout and following the winter holidays, according to Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

“When they came to a place where they had to make a repair, they’d have to briefly shut a part of the campus down,” said Michael Seamon, facilities management’s assistant director of operations. “That happened, I think, four different times, but only briefly each time.”

Millay said that his primary concern was the well-being of residents in on-campus student housing, some of whom remained in their dorms through the holiday break. He said that the winter storm was not nearly as damaging as the ice storm that ravaged much of the state, including the campus, in January 2001, just months after he came to work at UALR.

“We were out here for a solid week, from daylight to dark, cutting trees and cleaning up,” Seamon said about the 2001 storm.

Several pine trees fell on campus as a result of the winter storm that hit Arkansas on Dec. 25. Photo courtesy of Sandra Vail

The majority of the damage caused by this season’s storm affected ornamental trees and shrubberies, Millay said. Four large pine trees fell in different spots on campus, one of which fell near the Southwest entrance to campus, blocking the road. So Seamon drove from his home in Saline County to clear the road and prepare the Department of Public Safety’s police vehicles for the ice- and snow-covered roadways.

Sandra Vail, director of facilities management, said that UALR grounds crews have filled six 40-yard construction dumpsters with debris from the cleanup. The only structural damage on campus was to the canopy and surrounding section of wall at the Print Services facility, which collapsed from the weight of snow, and to the roof of the now defunct greenhouse located behind the geology building, which collapsed after a snow-laden tree limb fell from above. Vail estimated repairs for the Print Services facility to be about $4,500, but she said there are currently no plans to repair the greenhouse, “because it was not in ‘working condition’ even prior to the snow storm damage.”

“We were very fortunate that everything that fell, fell away from anything of real importance,” Vail said. “We didn’t lose any roofs or windows or walls or cars.”

The administrators said that all of the repair and cleanup work was done in-house, without having to bring in “the snow crew.”

The winter weather system that laid waste to much of the state formed in the southern Plains region and resulted in freezing rain and up to 15 inches of snow on Christmas day, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

“I was very surprised with what damage we had, that it wasn’t on a greater scale than it was,” Seamon said. “We’re lucky we didn’t have any sort of flooding in any of the buildings.”

Three people were reported dead due to the winter weather, according to state reports.

Charles Donaldson, vice chancellor for educational, student services and student life, said he is promoting purchase of a generator to power the residence halls for such instances.

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