The Knox College campus experienced flooding after it received two and a half inches of rain throughout the day on Feb. 20. Because of the frozen ground, the rain and melting snow became run-off and made it almost impossible for people to get around campus.
Scott Maust, director of facilities services, says that the flooding mainly occurred because the storm drains were frozen over and the water that accumulated across campus could not be drained easily.
“I had grounds workers do everything they could have possibly done to combat the flooding,” Maust said.
The storm drains were opened up but they were frozen over and water could not easily drain through them. Sump pumps were also used to pump water away from the buildings to combat flooding. Despite these efforts, the massive amounts of rain and melting snow caused large areas of campus to be completely covered in water.
“I’m surprised that the campus flooded this easily,” freshman Melissa Jaffe said. “It was almost impossible for me to get across campus even though I had rain boots because the water was so high. The amount of water across campus caught me completely off-guard.”
Damage to campus buildings was not that big of a problem because water was diverted away from the buildings.
“We used sandbags to combat water in the Taylor Lounge and there were a few ceiling leaks from melting ice, but it was nothing too bad,” Maust said.
“When the Taylor Lounge flooded, grounds responded really quickly and cleaned it up immediately. They assessed the situation and seemed to have no problem handling it. Some students helped them clean up the water, and I think that was really nice of them,” freshman Emma Thornton-Kolbe said. “While it was hard to get around campus, I know that the grounds crew did the best they could to clean up the mess that campus had become and I really appreciate that.”
If campus floods again later this winter or spring, it will be handled in the same ways, according to Maust. “Luckily, most of the drains have now opened and we will do everything we can to keep them open. Other than that though, there is not much more we can do to stop the flooding except hope that the ground thaws gradually.”
In a typical winter, there is usually one to one and a half feet of frost in the ground, but this winter there is almost three feet of frost. If we get another large amount of rain before the ground is mostly thawed, the campus is likely to experience similar flooding again. However, if the ground thaws gradually, rain should not cause major flooding because it will drain more easily.
According to Maust, this is not a typical winter. Last winter, grounds used four pallets of ice melt to combat ice on the pathways on campus. This winter, 18 pallets of ice melt has been used so far, and it is in short supply. “We have used 44,000 pounds of ice melt and 10,000 pounds of sand, but it will be very hard to find ice melt from now on,” said Maust.
Sand and rock salt are effective at preventing ice from forming, but sand tends to be trekked into buildings and rock salt is not as eco-friendly as ice melt is. Maust says that he appreciates everyone’s patience this winter. “It’s been a very long, hard winter for everybody. Think spring.”