Nearly 100 students displaced by flooding at University of Michigan's North Quad
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.
- For an updated story, see University of Michigan's North Quad up and running 5 days after flood
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.
Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com
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.