June 13-26, 2003
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Rain delays work
Rain delays work

Shawn Mitchell (standing) and Dale Conley, of the Facilities Management fire protection and sound unit, set up the public address system on the Lawn last Friday for Reunions Weekend.

Photo by Rebecca Arrington
Can you hear me now?
Shawn Mitchell (standing) and Dale Conley, of the Facilities Management fire protection and sound unit, set up the public address system on the Lawn last Friday for Reunions Weekend. It was one of the few sunny days the area has had in the past month-and-a-half. Water had to be pumped out of Madison Bowl earlier in the week before the Reunions tent could be set up for returning alums. Preparations for the weekend aren’t the only jobs that have been hampered by rain. Construction projects and routine maintenance schedules, such as mowing, have been affected by the deluge.

By Matt Kelly

While the recent heavy rainfall might be good for flowers and reservoirs, it has slowed a lot of work on Grounds.

May rainfall was 8.75 inches, nearly double the normal amount for the month. For the first five months of 2003, rainfall has been 144 percent of normal, according to Jerry Stenger, research coordinator at the State Climatology Office at U.Va. Last year, rainfall in the first five months was 60 percent of normal.

At the University, this has meant delays in construction and ground maintenance.
“Unless the structure is up and the roof is on, it is affected,” said Elizabeth “Jo” Lawson, capital planner with Facilities Management. “This is true throughout the region. The ground is too saturated [to lay] foundations, deliveries are difficult, and we have to wash mud off the vehicles leaving a site.”

The rain has hampered construction of the new Observatory Hill dining hall, which requires a temporary road and where excavation has just started for the foundations. The rain, paired with a harsher than normal winter, has caused delays in setting the foundations at the Ivy Road parking garage. While the completion date has been extended 15 days to Oct. 15, Lawson said it should go up quickly now that foundations have been completed.

The foundation had already been completed on the expansion of the Aquatics and Fitness Center, so that facility is on schedule, she said. And the excavation has just started for the John Paul Jones Arena on Massie Road.

Replacement of the brick walkways outside Thornton Hall have been postponed due to rain.

The Mary and David Harrison Institute for American History, Literature and Culture and the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library being built next to Alderman Library has had its deadline extended by about six days, according to Donald C. Riggin, who is overseeing the construction for the University. “The latest bouts of rain have pushed us into March 2004,” he said.

Crews have done what they could, Riggin said, but the rain has made it hard to pour concrete and work on the roof. The project moved ahead of schedule in the dry summer and fall last year, so the current delays have been minor.

Construction is not the only problem. The rain has also taken its toll on the University’s landscape.

“It sure slowed us down,” said Scott Burns, landscape supervisor for Central Grounds.

Soggy conditions have made mowing difficult, and Burns’ crew has been working to revive the Lawn following graduation. The exercises were held in a downpour, and the crowds trampled the grass into the mud, Burns said. His crew used three backpack blowers, set on their highest settings, to shake the grass loose of the mud and stand it back up again. Despite the mess, Burns said he was pleased the graduates walked the Lawn.

Once the ground dries sufficiently, the Lawn will be aerated and overseeded.
The wet weather has brought out an onslaught of aphids, Burns said. “ We lost the first leaf bloom on the maple trees. The second one looks OK, but this shows how wet conditions can let something thrive.”

The moisture has also caused some leaf fungi to flourish.

The rain has had no apparent impact on the recent plantings, Burns said, though root rot could become a problem if the soil remains saturated. He is most concerned about 150 two-foot-tall Japanese hollies planted on the Lawn side of the Rotunda.

“My trees are loving it,” said arborist Jerry Brown. “I haven’t lost any of them.”
Burns said landscape workers learn to adjust to conditions. Last year, he said, they were capturing water from chiller facilities to water plants.


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