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Posted on Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 2:44 p.m.

Nearly 100 students displaced by flooding at University of Michigan's North Quad

By Kyle Feldscher


Water pours into a hallway at North Quad Thursday morning. The flooding displaced almost 100 students.

Courtesy of Keya Patel

Editor's note: Update: Officials are now reporting there were 32 students displaced. According to original reports, it was believed 100 students were displaced by the flooding.

Almost 100 University of Michigan students were displaced Thursday after significant flooding in the North Quadrangle dormitory damaged the third- and fourth-floor living areas. Classes normally held in the building also had to be canceled.

University Housing spokesman Peter Logan said approximately 66 students from the fourth floor and roughly 30 students from the third floor of North Quad, 105 S. State St., were displaced by Thursday morning’s flooding. Logan said a broken 3-inch coupling on a water line that services the fire suppression system caused the flooding.

“In situations such as this, students will sometimes seek out friends on or off campus and relocate there,” Logan said. “We’re going to try and identify spaces within University Housing and identify spaces off campus at local hotels (to relocate them).”

The flooding started in a stairwell on the fourth floor and spread throughout the lower floors of the building, causing the residential tower to be closed. The third and fourth floors are student housing areas in that part of the building. The second floor is a community space and the first floor is mainly classrooms, Logan said.


Parts of the University of Michigan's North Quad dormitory were closed Thursday after a coupling in the fire suppression system broke, flooding portions of the third and fourth floors.

Courtney Sacco |

Dramatic photos posted on Twitter Thursday showed water shooting into hallways and cascading down a stairwell. Other students walked along soggy hallways with standing water while they were evacuating. Videos posted on YouTube showed students evacuating the building while the sound of running water echoed in the background.

North Quad's third-floor study room, computer lab and technology-equipped classroom were all damaged by water as the fourth-floor flooding seeped through the floors.

"The water was coming through the ceiling. It looked like it was raining," recalled Libby O'Connell, who lives on the eighth floor of North Quad.

O'Connell recalls seeing students ankle-deep, "trudging through the water" on North Quad's fourth floor

University of Michigan Police spokeswoman Diane Brown said the flooding began about 10:40 a.m. It’s still unknown at this point what caused the coupling to break.

North Quad opened in 2010, after a three-year, $175 million construction project was completed. The building houses the U-M School of Information and portions of the university’s College of Literature, Science and Arts. It replaced the Frieze Building, formerly Ann Arbor High School, which was torn down to make room for it.

Jeff MacKie-Mason, dean of the U-M School of Information, sent an email to the school community stating that the The Ehrlicher Room in North Quad sustained major damage in the flooding.

"We will not be able to use it for some time, perhaps several months (the ceilings may need to be replaced, walls may need repair, the carpet and our extensive electronics equipment may need replacement)," MacKie-Mason wrote in the email.

The power to the wall outlets on the third and fourth floors has been turned off, but the power in the rest of the building remains on, Logan said. Students who live on the fifth through tenth floors were allowed to return to their rooms, which were not damaged.

Logan said the power to the entire building could not be turned off because of the possible impact on the rest of the building’s residents.

“We’re anxious about the possibility of the water being electrified and we turned off the power to wall outlets on three and four,” he said. “We haven’t powered down the building entirely because it would impact the students living above and the elevator.”

All academic classes in the affected area of the building were either canceled or relocated and it’s not clear when students might be able to return to the third and fourth floors. He said students who live in those rooms cannot return at this point, even to collect personal items.

A multipurpose room in a different part of North Quad was housing displaced students Thursday, Logan said. The university was providing them with food and working on giving students information about the incident.

The 180-seat dining hall is still operational and was not affected by the flooding, Logan said.

University of Michigan Plant Operations crews and other workers were at the building Thursday afternoon working on cleaning up the building.

University Housing will be working with the Dean of Students office to relocate the students who were displaced, Logan said.

Logan said the university has dealt with flooding in residential areas before, usually as a result of the sprinkler systems being activated.

“We do have protocols and we have had it before,” he said. “We do evacuate students from certain parts of the building and until we know it’s safe they cannot go back to their rooms to check personal objects.”

He added, “We have procedures to help with cleanup and identify personal objects that may be damaged. We’ve had experience in flooding, but the cause of this one is a little curious.”

Higher education reporter Kellie Woodhouse contributed to this story.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

Cherry Bomb in the toilet! OMG!


Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 2:22 a.m.

Reminds me of my time as an RA. Some very promising young freshmen were kicking a soccer ball a floor or two above mine and were able to snap the nozzle off of the pipe. Then four floors of emergency water splashed out through a tiny 1 1/2" hole in the pipe that no one could stop because hundreds of pounds of pressure of water was shooting out of it at the time. So many rooms were flooded. I had the foresight to lift my carpet and other things off the ground. It seems like they maybe could have designed the system to, you know, not flood entire floors when there's not actually a flood.


Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 7:23 a.m.

Nope. When there's a fire, you want that system going, and you want it to flood to have the best chance of putting a fire out.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 10:35 p.m.

OMG, call Governor Snyder and demand he declares a state of emergency. Just kidding people, take a joke.

Kai Petainen

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 10:08 p.m.

Question -- when there is water flooding like that, is it safe/normal to have lights on?

Tom Joad

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 9:51 p.m.

You'd think they'd design a more robust fire suppression system that would shut-off in the event of a pipe breakage. Those systems of necessity pump out a gargantuan amount of water, ideally only when needed.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 10:32 p.m.

Was thinking that myself Tom. With technology today it seems this would very feasible.

Kai Petainen

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 9:45 p.m.

I feel bad for the students.... =(

Retiree Newcomer

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 9:39 p.m.

Did the AAFD respond to this emergency?


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 9:26 p.m.

I realize it was a 3" pipe but that is a LOT of water. No one there capable of shutting it off quickly? Also seems that the fire suppression system for part or all of this building is currently compromised? No idea what the requirements / code is but is it ok for people to continue living there before it's fixed? Glad no one seems to have been hurt. Hope the displaced folks find a suitable place to stay until this gets ironed out.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 8:58 p.m.

Looks like the Titanic!!


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 9:09 p.m.

Or a Celebrity Cruise Lines ship, just pick one.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 8:49 p.m.

Will the University pay for the relocation of these students? Does their insurance cover damaged students belongings, such as computers, clothing, TVs and other personal items?


Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 11:21 a.m.

Students are responsible to have insurance on their belongings. A homeowners policy that a parent has will cover things.

John of Saline

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 8:49 p.m.

Once saw steam in a hallway of a dorm. Turned out the steam valve on a room radiator had popped off, flooding the room with steam and destroying all the students' stuff. Luckily, just one room was affected.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 8:38 p.m.

Send yer kids to Michigan - it's almost like being on a (flooded) cruise ship! "... the university has dealt with flooding in residential areas before, usually as a result of the sprinkler systems being activated." – How many of those sprinkler system incidents were actually triggered by fires? How many sprinkler activations actually put out fires? Is U of M a fire trap... or a drowning hazard? If it's the latter, maybe the U of M Swim Team should be housed in this location. Or should I say, lodged? ;_)

dading dont delete me bro

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 8:33 p.m.

i don't see what time thursday morning(?)


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 7:48 p.m.

This shouldn't have happened to a three-year-old building.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 7:37 p.m.

I guess that's one way to build a lap pool.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 7:12 p.m.

Unlikely that a coupling on a water line would fail after such a short period. Kyle, can you check to see if UM is following up on the cause to establish responsibility. Best guess at this time is that it was poor workmanship. Better to use the contractor's insurance than UM's. I guess $175,000,000 doesn't get one what it used to!?


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 9:35 p.m.

Yea Bobby J. Poor workmanship. Probably no need for the official investigation. They could bypass that and go directly to your area of expertise. Careful though UofM may ask you to just go ahead and sue that negligible contractor as well.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 7:21 p.m.

Come on, you know the warranty expired last Tuesday.

Kyle Feldscher

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 7:15 p.m.

Will do, BobbyJohn. It seems that they're pretty baffled by the whole thing, so I imagine they'll be checking up on it.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 7:07 p.m.

I can recall two similar incidents from my student days: 1) A sewer line broke in Dennison and cascaded raw sewage down on our classroom in Physics 140. 2) A Sigma Alpha Mau pledge used the Mary Markley stairwell as a bathroom after a night of hazing.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 9:07 p.m.

All things considered I think the students are happier they had water from the fire suppression system than the sewer line like your experience. :-)

Ann Dwyer

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 8:01 p.m.

You're forgetting the time the elevators opened and blood came pouring out. I believe creepy twins were involved.

Kyle Feldscher

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 6:53 p.m.

I'm waiting for a call back from U-M officials regarding their insurance on this building.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 8:43 p.m.

Most big institutions like UM are "self insured", except for catatrophic costs. Even something like employee health insurance is only serviced by an insurance company but the costs are paid by the University. What about the contractors insurance? Was this faulty construction?