Rhode Island College was not spared from the wrath of Hurricane Irene, a tropical storm the size of Europe (550 miles in width) that dumped several inches of rain and left thousands of Rhode Island residents without power due to high winds that took down trees and damaged utility lines statewide.
National Grid estimates that more than 340,000 of the 480,000 Rhode Island electrical customers experienced power failures as a result of the tropical storm, including RIC. As of Monday Aug. 29, RIC was one of 276,328 customers still without commercial power and was running primarily on generator power.
Due to intermittent power availability, day and evening classes remained cancelled for Monday, Aug. 29. Day classes on Tuesday, Aug. 30 were cancelled as well. However, evening classes beginning at or after 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 30, are to be held as regularly scheduled.
Due to generators located around campus, Donovan Dining Center and all of the residence halls are fully operational, which allowed resident students to move in as planned on Monday afternoon. However, the lack of commercial power has left many building in the dark, most notably the Murray Center. Student Union and Craig Lee.
According to RIC Athletic Director Don Tencher, the college’s electrical issues are all off-campus.
“National Grid is assessing the damage and working to restore power to the area,” said Tencher. “According to them, we are one of 15 priority areas that they are working on to restore power to.”
Overall, RIC sustained very little physical damage to the campus. No buildings suffered any structural damage, and while the college lost commercial power, the generators around campus were all up and running to restore it. One of the few areas on campus that is still feeling the impact of the storm is the aforementioned Student Union, which is running on emergency power at the moment. As a result, WXIN is currently off the air due to a lack of full power in the Student Union, where the FM transmitter is located. Until commercial power is restored to the campus, WXIN will remain off the air.
“We weathered the storm very well,” said Tencher. “Rain and water damage was kept to a minimum. There was some minor flooding in the basement of Craig-Lee, but that was about it.”
According to Tencher, the most significant damage from the storm came as a result of gusting winds, which took down trees all across the 180-acre campus.
“Tons of trees came down, which we anticipated,” said Tencher.
Greg Gammell, RIC Assistant Director of Facilities and Operations, was the architect of the college’s response to the deadly storm. Gammell, anticipating damage to occur from fallen trees, arranged for a tree company to arrive and begin working at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday Aug. 28. The preemptive measure helped the college recover quickly from extensive damage caused by fallen trees.
While the college worked diligently to clear paths and roads around campus, a major cleanup effort occurred on College Road. According to Tencher, College Road was a “disaster” after three trees fell, taking down commercial power and phone lines in the process. Fortunately the tree company was able to clean up the mess and the down lines were repaired.
“Everything went according to plan,” said Tencher of the massive cleanup operation.
The cost incurred by running the generators that power the campus at the moment and the labor costs associated with the cleanup remain an issue.