It was no normal rainstorm. Central Michigan University would meet it with no normal response.
When the skies opened June 22, dropping as much as six inches of rain on Mount Pleasant overnight, CMU staff and student employees worked through the night alongside contract partners, pushing back against floodwaters rising into buildings and across roads.
It looked like the rains had won by morning, with campus closed amid standing water, but that was only Round 1. Cleanup continued even through a second intense rainstorm Saturday, weekend programs went on as scheduled, and the campus was open for business Monday morning.
Rising to meet the challenge
Approximately 75 employees from facilities management, residence life, university recreation, facilities operations, grounds, skilled trades and more rose to the challenge.
CMU President George E. Ross praised their hard work in his opening remarks to the Board of Trustees Thursday.
"I extend deep gratitude to all of the employees who worked around the clock to protect, stabilize and repair our campus," he said. "Your efforts exemplify the CMU spirit, and you've proven once again that our university will face tremendous obstacles from time to time — and always rise above them.
"I also extend sincere appreciation to Jonathan Webb, associate vice president for facilities management," Ross added. "Less than a year after joining CMU, Jonathan coordinated our response with great calmness and great leadership."
It wasn't easy. By the end of June 23, Webb said, "we had initial reports of approximately 15 campus buildings impacted, heavy flooding on East and West Campus drives and Broomfield Road, flooding in our utility tunnels, and commercial power down in two facilities.
"In many areas, team members were reporting that water was coming up through storm drains. Most team members had worked well over 12 hours."
Facilities employee Madison McNamara, a junior from Macomb County studying mechanical engineering technology, was assigned to inspect flooded parking lots.
"I feel very blessed that I have the opportunity to help the community come back from the flood — especially my school," she said. "It has been such a learning process to see the steps that the university is taking to repair the damages and try to make our school the way it once was."
University crews weren't alone, as the entire region felt the impact of the rainfall.
Several local organizations responded to the flooding through the Isabella County Emergency Operations Center, including Isabella County, the Charter Township of Union, the city of Mount Pleasant and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.
Taking stock of the situation
Assessments of the impact are ongoing.
"At this time, we're tracking 51 facilities and four infrastructure systems that received varying levels of water intrusion," Webb said Wednesday. "Thirty-nine of those facilities and three infrastructure systems — roads, parking lots and tunnels — are being assessed as having minor impacts. Nine facilities and some portions of CMU roads have more significant impact."
Hardest hit are the Student Activity Center, Theunissen Stadium and the Baseball Performance Enhancement Center, and the basement of the Dow Science Complex.
Recovery across campus is estimated between $7 million and $10 million.
Assessment teams began evaluating all facilities and infrastructure Monday morning, with insurance adjustors and the Environmental Health and Safety office working with engineers and skilled trades teams.
Webb said efforts have shifted from recovery to restoration in about one-third of the affected facilities, and that work at four facilities is considered complete.
Bringing back the SAC
Removal of water-damaged hardwood basketball courts began Wednesday afternoon, the start of a plan to ensure the SAC is ready for students in August.
"We were making decisions in meetings Tuesday, and 24 hours later, crews were mobilized," said Stan Shingles, assistant vice president for University Recreation whose responsibilities include managing the SAC.
Shingles, who was at a conference in Chicago when he received word about the flooding, said the impact could have been worse.
"The custodial staff probably mitigated additional damages by acting quickly," he said. "We had water running down through the lower concourse to the elevator shaft, and they were able to contain that. You short out that elevator, and it could be a million-dollar fix."
Next up is a strategic and comprehensive plan, with stages leading up to
Leadership Safari, CMU's largest upcoming event.
"We've set priorities so we can have Leadership Safari here and still do work in other areas," Shingles said. "The small sports forum, the weight training center and MP Fit — all of those should be open by the time school starts.
"The entire CMU staff is dedicated, resilient and hard-working," he added, "and with the help of our contract partners, we will restore Central as quickly as possible to ensure we all meet our No. 1 priority: student success."