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The lights went out in Jarvis Hall the night of June 21 when more than 3 inches of rain fell in a short time in Menomonie, flooding city streets and filling the basement of the university’s newest building.
Now, thanks to the work of dedicated university employees and contractors, electrical equipment has been replaced in the Jarvis Hall basement, walls have been painted, flooring is new, information technology is operating and laboratories and storage areas are getting back to normal.
A major milestone occurred Thursday, July 25, when the permanent power supply was activated in the final section of Jarvis Hall that previously was powered by a portable generator.
The damage will be covered by insurance; the claims are still being submitted, so no firm damage estimate has been calculated. University officials said the damage will run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"What I was amazed at was the quick response," said Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen, who toured the basement area Monday.
Sorensen said he came to the building June 22, and the degree of damage was clear. "We knew it was major," he said.
The building houses the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and has vital classroom and laboratory space. "It was critical to get the building operating before classes begin in September," Sorensen said. "To have this building off-line for school was unacceptable."
But safety was key, Sorensen said, given the dangerous nature of the equipment involved in the flood. "People come first. We are very pleased that there were no injuries."
The storm flooded the electrical vault in the basement of Jarvis, 410 10th Ave. E., knocking out electricity in the Science Wing, Technology Wing and adjacent Micheels Hall. Electrical service was restored quickly by using alternative feeds and portable generators to all sections of the block-long building complex, except for the Science Wing on the north end.
The water built up behind a door in the electrical vault, eventually busting through the door and flooding the rest of the basement, which holds a number of laboratories, storage areas, elevator equipment and the information technology backbone for the building.
Nearly 83,000 gallons of water poured into the basement through a fresh air intake. Workers had to pump the water out that weekend before restoration could begin.
Flooding also occurred on the first floor of the adjacent Memorial Student Center, where rainwater backed up against the doors of the east and west entrances and leaked into the building. The basement floor of the Administration Building, which houses the staffs of University Communications and University Marketing, also sustained minor flooding when water streamed down a loading dock. The damages in those buildings have been repaired.
Shirley Klebesadel, Physical Plant director, said most of the electrical equipment, including the transformers, in the Jarvis basement had to be replaced.
Despite all the repairs, other equipment for biology, physics and other departments still is on order. Elevator equipment also had to be repaired or replaced. "We will be back in service by the start of school," Klebesadel said of the remaining work.
To prevent more basement flooding, retaining walls that surround the fresh air intake are being raised. "We are preventing (flood waters) from hitting that electrical vault again," she said.
The good news, Klebesadel said, is that the electrical safety systems operated as designed and prevented a major injury or worse.
"Our systems worked," she said. "They told us we had a failure. It was just a matter of putting it back together."