FEBRUARY 20, 2009

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NSU Campus Pulls Together To Clean Up After Storm

Photo of USAO student Mike Friend, extreme adventure photographer.
The NSU RiverHawks football players pitched in to help clean up campus on Monday after the ice storm. Several members of the team worked to remove downed limbs in front of Wilson Hall.

Even though the campuses of Northeastern State University were closed beginning Tuesday, Jan. 27 due to the ice storm, workers in the NSU Physical Plant have been working nearly around the clock to restore power, clean up debris, and respond to emergencies caused by the mounting ice.

“Since the storm began, we have had all hands on deck from the Physical Plant staff,” said Joe Spence, Physical Plant director. “Everyone who could get to work was required to be here, and most of them have been here working 16 hour days. The Physical Plant staff knows that when campus is closed in an emergency, they are ready to work.”

Grounds crews have begun work at 4 a.m. the past few days, clearing sidewalks and parking lots, removing fallen trees and assessing the damage to campus, continuing as late as 8 p.m. some nights.

Physical Plant carpenters and electricians have been battling numerous roofing leaks and electrical outages caused by the build up of ice on buildings and power stations. In addition to duties in their regular areas, these workers have been outdoors to helping with the campus clean up.

“Several of our workers have stayed overnight on campus,” said Spence, who remained on campus from Tuesday morning until late Thursday night. “We were all back on campus again at 4 a.m. Friday morning to continue working.”

The city of Tahlequah allowed the Physical Plant to borrow trucks to help the sanding of parking lots and sidewalks. Oakridge Builders, who is on campus completing construction of Centennial Plaza, also lent equipment and helped move trees as part of the clean up process.

“We had to break up the ice on sidewalks and in parking lots to make them safe for our students, faculty and staff to travel on,” said Spence. “There are also many trees and limbs down across campus. A lot of trees were lost in this storm.”

Crews from the Physical Plant and Tahlequah Public Works worked during and after the storm to restore power to residence halls, the University Center and other building across campus that lost electricity.

The Indoor Practice Facility (or the Dome) also lost power during the storm causing it to deflate and tear under the weight of the ice. Crews worked to move equipment inside the dome as it was deflating to prevent further damage to the structure as it deflated, Spence said.

A team from Air Structures American Technologies Incorporated (ASATI), the manufacturers of the Indoor Practice Facility (or the Dome), made repairs to the facility over the weekend and re-inflated the dome by Saturday night.

NSU President Dr. Don Betz praised the commitment of the Physical Plan crew and other groups across campus for coming together to fix problems as they arose during and after the storm.

“Our intrepid physical plant employees and many others have been laboring almost round the clock to keep us up and running,” said Betz. “We are deeply grateful to many. Through all these days I have been fortified by the commitment of our physical plant personnel, IT, Sodexho food service, campus police, support staff in all areas, faculty who have been on campus and our administrative colleagues who have collaborated to meet the demands of the moment, large and small.”

Betz also encouraged the campus community to lend a hand to others in the area who suffered as a result of the ice storm.

“We must be mindful, in these atypical moments, of the situation others around us are facing,” he said. “Copious amounts of kindness, understanding, good cheer and helping hands will aid us all in mopping up, cleaning up and continuing with our commitment to teaching and learning. Adaptability and innovation will be needed. This is not business as usual.”