After the storm: Facilities to the rescue

It was a storm the likes of which had not been seen on campus before. Winds between 80 and 100 miles per hour ripped down the east canyons and onto the benches, seemingly trying to clear everything in their path. When the great gusts finally subsided the destruction was awesome in its scope. More than 100 trees were felled. Buildings sustained damage both outside and in. Some sidewalks and roads were completely impassable due to debris.

Now our amazing facilities crews are swooping in to help once again.

This storm is hardly the only major issue facilities has faced in 2020. In March, they had to assess the safety of campus and make the proper repairs following the earthquake. For the past six months they have worked tirelessly to protect the campus community from the spread of coronavirus by cleaning and sanitizing all occupied and unoccupied spaces. Then the destruction of Sept. 8, 2020, presented them with a whole new set of challenges.

The majority of the downed trees were in the vicinity of Presidents Circle and the area stretching to the south towards the law school. Some of those trees have been on campus for decades reached more than 100 feet into the sky. Now they had to be removed in order to ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff. Even in areas where full trees didn’t fall the branches ripped away from them had to be cleared.

In addition to the trees, multiple buildings were damaged by the storm. Lassonde Studios, the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts and Education Complex, the Executive Education Building and the Merrill Engineering Building all had siding lost or damaged. And the roofs of the Carolyn Tanner Irish Humanities Building, and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts both were in need of repair.

A wide variety of facilities crews are now working to restore campus to some semblance of normal. Grounds, Districts, Heavy Equipment, Transportation, Custodial and Construction Trades are just some of the divisions hard at work. The hope is to have the majority of the downed trees removed within 10 days of the storm. Building repairs are expected to take slightly longer, as damage assessment is still being undertaken.

The university’s carpentry shop will also have a role in the clean-up, collecting wood from many of the fallen trees to repurpose for use on campus. In the past, they have turned trees felled by major weather events into podiums, conference tables, desks and cabinets. Due to the sheer number of the trees downed by the storm, they won’t be able to use all of them, but they are sure to give new life to the wood from as many trees as they can.

While the crews are working to clean up the wreckage left in the storm’s path members of the community can help by remaining safe near downed trees and broken branches. They also should steer clear of downed trees and especially broken branches that may be caught in trees overhead. Doing so will prevent harm or accident and allow our grounds and landscaping crews to quickly and effectively restore the campus to its beautiful and safe state.

Members of the tennis, swimming and diving teams help with the clean-up on Sept. 11, 2020.

Those who want to be more hands on with the clean­up can volunteer by registering through the Bennion Center and choosing one of the scheduled two-hour shifts. Click here to sign up. All volunteers should come prepared for outdoor, labor-intensive work. Please wear long pants, closed-toed shoes, gloves, a face covering and a form of eye protection (sunglasses or other protective eyewear). Please plan to bring sun protection (hat/sunscreen) and a water bottle.

Students and faculty wishing to assist in the cleanup off campus should first check with their neighbors. The Nextdoor app is a good way to figure out immediate needs in your community. Additionally, Salt Lake City has partnered with Utah VOAD to connect volunteers with service efforts in the city. Click here for more information on Utah VOAD.

Students and faculty in need of assistance off campus should call 211 to be connected with resources to assist in clearing debris. If downed trees are still blocking roads or sidewalks, contact your city for support.

This storm was powerful and took its toll on campus. Our facilities crews are facing the damage head on and will restore campus so that it is once again safe and beautiful. And they will be prepared for anything else 2020 happens to throw at them.