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Posted on Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 6:50 p.m.

University of Michigan students on North Quad flooding: 'It looked like it was raining'

By Kellie Woodhouse

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.

University of Michigan sophomore Keli Yew was sitting at her desk, legs half curled up in her chair as she studied when suddenly she sensed things moving on her floor.

"Some insect?" she thought, absorbed in her textbook and distracted by an upcoming exam. "I didn't quite pay attention."


Water cascades down a North Quad hallway on Thursday.

Courtesy photo | Heidi Skrzypek

Yew soon realized it wasn't an insect — it was about three inches of standing water on the floor of her fourth-floor North Quad dorm room. A water pipe had broken at around 10:30 a.m., sending water flowing into her hall, down stair cases and flooding common areas, classrooms and computer rooms filled with expensive equipment.

"I was like 'Why is everything floating around,' she recalls "Then after that, I started hearing sounds, like people shouting."

At least 96 students that live on the third and fourth floors of North Quad are displaced, with their rooms damaged from the flowing water. Some will be staying in hotels and open dorm rooms, while others will stay with friends. Classes normally held at North Quad were canceled Thursday. Students can check online for information about room closures.

According to Peter Logan, director of communications for U-M Housing, a broken 3-inch coupling on a water line that services the fire suppression system caused the flooding to a wing of North Quad that includes study areas, classrooms and a residence hall.

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

"People were panicking. Some people were really angry," Yew said. "Some of them were actually out at classes, they had their electronics on the floor. Some when they came back and saw [the water damage] they were so mad."

North Quad opened in 2010 and cost the university $175 million to build. It's the main building used by U-M's School of Information, whose dean sent a school-wide email Thursday warning students and staff that the academic areas of the building might be closed for several months due to damage.

Molly Vandanverg was studying in a common area of North Quad's eighth-floor residential area when she heard a police officer's radio go off.

"We heard him running down the hallway," she recalled. "We didn't really know what was going on."

Vandanverg would soon find the lower floors of North Quad had experienced heavy flooding. She left her wing of the building to go to North Quad's dining hall before she saw signs of flooding.

"There was water everywhere," she said. "I tried to go back up and get my materials for class and the entire building was closed off."

By mid-afternoon students living on the fifth floor and higher were allowed re-entry.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 3:08 p.m.

I remember a flood (from heavy snow on the roof) in the Modern Language Building in the 70s - I think not too long after it had opened? Water came down the walls, and the basement level (where I had a class) was ankle deep.


Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 8:23 p.m.

Kelly - sorry, didn't have a camera along - but I should think someone did. And I was no doubt distracted, tryng to find where my class was relocated.

Kellie Woodhouse

Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 5:45 p.m.

Really? Do you have photos? Could be cool for a Michigan Memories post.


Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 4:36 a.m.

Broken fire suppression line and it doesn't set off the fire alarm when the pressure drops or the water was flowing? More wrong here than just things getting wet. So, that's what all the news crews were doing around that building all evening?


Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 12:33 p.m.

The sudden drop in pressure should have set off the alarms.


Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 11:37 a.m.

Smoke and fires set off the alarms. I'm sure the rapidly increased flow was detected by other sensors.

Homeland Conspiracy

Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 4:03 a.m.

Surf's up dude!

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 1:47 a.m.

The flood ate my homework. And just imagine paying $40K a year for that.

Kellie Woodhouse

Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 5:45 p.m.

I'm imagining that excuse was probably used by someone yesterday/today. When I was reporting this story, someone told me they told their professor they couldn't make it to their class because they were stuck in the north quad tower.

Dirty Mouth

Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 1:37 a.m.

This building is not even 5 years old and already a broken 3-inch coupling on a water line that services the fire suppression system caused the flooding to a wing of North Quad? Better check with the pipe fitters union or the supplier, Mary-Sue?


Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 12:52 a.m.

Ahh,..Mary Sue is smiling! She now has an excuse to fall back on to raise tuition 15% next year. lol :)

Jay Thomas

Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 12:29 a.m.

The building is only a few years old and they spent a fortune constructing it. But good luck finding anyone that will take responsibility for something like this.


Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 11:36 a.m.

Just because a building is new doesn't mean that everything works. The complexity of the myriad systems increases the chance of somethings going wrong. That's in spite of everyone's best efforts.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 11:51 p.m.

How many dad's are throwing a fit today?

Jack Gladney

Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 12:51 a.m.

Just the one's whose kid's didn't learn punctuation in school.


Thu, Mar 28, 2013 : 11:37 p.m.

Fire system pipe ? nasty.I remember in high school when some clown hit a sprinkler with a book and the water looked and smelled like a sewer


Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 12:30 p.m.

If I am not mistaken the system is supposed to be flushed every so often.


Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 12:37 a.m.

But that system is only a couple years old so shouldn't be to bad