Employees see University through
night of turmoil
of the Daily Progress/Andrew Shurtleff
lost its oldest tree to Isabel last week, a massive white
oak believed to be 256 years old. Here, third-year student
Ryan Thompson inspects the tree, which stood until last Friday
between Brooks Hall and the Rotunda.
By Carol Wood
Thursday afternoon, Hurricane Isabel swept over the University,
bringing an evening of turmoil that left the Grounds without power
until early Friday morning.
At about 6 p.m., roughly an hour after much of the University
lost electricity, Leonard W. Sandridge, executive vice president
and chief operating officer, pulled on his U.Va. Police raingear
and set out on what would be the first of several Grounds tours
he would make throughout the night.
was not alone. Hundreds of University employees worked around
the clock to keep patients and students safely sheltered and well
of Sandridges first stops was to see how first-year students
were faring in the Observatory Hill dining room. Nearing its 7
p.m. closing time, he found it still brimming with students dining
by candlelight and emergency power. It was dark and steamy, but
neither Sandridge nor the students seemed to mind. One worker
deemed it very crazy in here tonight.
talked with students and thanked workers for going the extra mile
to help during the hurricane.
many at the University, Dining Services had gotten an early jump
on planning for Isabel. Earlier in the week, Richard Kovatch,
associate vice president for business operations, reported bringing
in a refrigerated tractor-trailer with enough food and supplies
to get through a sustained period without power. And while O-Hill
power until midday Saturday, the meals kept coming.
Management workers assess damage to a serpentine wall and
cut and clear debris.
the dining hall, Sandridge wheeled his Jeep Cherokee up Observatory
Hill to check on Hereford College and other sites. He found Hereford
lit up like a Christmas tree but roadways littered with branches.
One Environmental Health & Safety truck had met its match
in the shape of a fallen tree limb.
called in the damage to his office, where Debbie Rinker and Tammy
Wilkins, his administrative assistants, were staffing a makeshift
stop was the 911 Center next to University Police headquarters
on U.S. 250. Sandridge found bright lights but grim news
the city quickly was becoming impassable. Calls about trees
are coming in about every five minutes, one emergency worker
was not yet 8 p.m., and Kaye Harden, the emergency services coordinator
for the areas Emergency Operations Center, said Dominion
Power already was reporting 1 million customers across the state
short drive back to Madison Hall was dark and windswept. At the
flooded intersection of Ivy Road and Emmet Street, a gaggle of
yellow-slickered workmen, knee-deep in water, yelped to each other
as they tried to open storm drains while rain pelted them from
received updates from Wilkins and Rinker, who had been fielding
calls from the likes of Facilities Management, University Police,
Housing and the Health System.
a brief respite, Sandridge decided to head to the Medical Center.
Drive or walk? he asked aloud. Back into the rain,
he trudged across Grounds, down alongside one of the Medical Centers
massive generators humming loudly into the night.
9:30 p.m., the hospital was well into the fourth of what would
be 11 hours of operating off its two generators.
Sidebottom, director for emergency preparedness, said the Medical
Center was filled and the emergency room would be kept hopping.
By 5 a.m., 64 people had sought treatment, although only a handful
of those were hurricane-related. Meanwhile, upstairs on maternity,
eight women were in labor, and by 6 a.m., two boys and a girl
would be born. In the OR, operations went on as scheduled.
the hospitals smooth operation was good news, it was greatly
diminished by the bad. Reports that a father and son killed earlier
in a car crash had just been brought to the hospital reminded
everyone of Isabels devastating power.
least a dozen hospital administrators gathered in the room to
plan for the rest of the night.
Center CEO R. Edward Howell praised the staff for pulling
together in extraordinary fashion. Earlier he had walked
the halls laden with orange Medical Center T-shirts for employees
some 30 of whom had planned to sleep over on cots
printed with the phrase I survived Hurricane Isabel.
soon was headed up to the Lawn to see how Isabel was treating
Jeffersons Academical Village. A few limbs were down, but
clearly not students spirits. Much gaiety could be heard,
but not seen, there and at Mad Bowl.
the clock pushing hard toward midnight, Sandridge discovered water
rushing into Madison Halls basement. He and four others
swept the water out into a working drain on the other side of
the building, while a fifth held multiple flashlights. Within
minutes, several Facilities Management crews arrived to address
the overflowing drains.
12:15 a.m., Sandridge was back at the 911 Center, where he learned
that the number of people in the state without power had risen
to 1.3 million, a number that would later top out at 1.7 million.
returned to Madison Hall, and shortly afterward Paul Norris, the
Universitys chief of police, and Lt. Mike Gibson briefed
him on what theyd seen in their travels. Norris had his
staff working 12-hour shifts, carefully monitoring the Grounds.
1:30 a.m., the weather had begun to settle down. With some nudging
from Rinker and Wilkins, Sandridge left at 2 a.m. with a promise
to return by 5.
a fitful sleep, Rinker and Wilkins were awakened at 4:45 by bright
lights and buzzing computers. Then, like clockwork, Sandridge
came through the door at 5 a.m., ready to put Isabel behind him.
It had been a long, difficult night, but University employees
had performed admirably and he was feeling pretty good.
was time to move forward, to make storm evaluations and assessments,
and for making sure the University would be back to normal as
soon as possible.
(Top left) Frank Hill of Facilities Management responds
to a call as employees from the Big O Tree and Lawn
Service remove a fallen tree between Brooks Hall and the Rotunda
Friday morning. In all, U.Va. lost some 20 mature trees due to the
hurricane. (Top right) Scaffolding littered the steps of the Rotunda
the morning after Isabel. (Below right) Facilities Management workers
assess damage to a serpentine wall and cut and clear debris. (Below
left) U.Va. students and area children made the best of the soggy
situation. Here, 10-year-old Madeline Heim slides headfirst into
a muddy Mad Bowl.