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2010 Fall Issue 2 (October 1, 2010)

Carleton and Northfield recovering after record flood: Downtown businesses and track destroyed

October 1, 2010
By Beth Budnick, Molly Rapaport and Vaaishali Umrikar

It started as a drizzle, soon became rain, and then, before most students knew it, a flood. On Wednesday and Thursday of last week, Northfield got six inches of rain. By early Friday morning, the Cannon River had expanded in volume by ten times since Wednesday.

According to the Northfield News, over the next three days, the river level increased from 14.5 feet to as much as 25.2 feet. The harsh rainstorms and rising water levels submerged several downtown businesses and required many roads and bridges in town to be closed down during the weekend.

The flood’s impact in Northfield was felt throughout the athletic facilities at Carleton and downtown businesses bordering the Cannon such as Froggy Bottoms Riverside Pub.
Damage at Carleton, according to Carleton Facilities Director Steven Spehn, was primarily the closing of Laird Stadium and West Gym and damage to the Laird football field and track. Laird Stadium has about two feet of water in the building that deposited a layer of mud throughout the first floor and damaged the electrical service equipment in the building. The building is without power and will remain closed until the cleaning and disinfecting is complete and the electrical service components are replaced according to State Code.

The basement in West Gym had almost three feet of water in it.  Electrical service and components were also impacted here and the building is currentlywithout power.  In addition the basement contains several pieces of mechanical systems that provide heat and ventilation to the building as well as the pool pumps.  The electric motors on these systems and electrical wiring will need to be replaced before the building is ready for occupancy.  The large pieces of equipment in front of West Gym are there to help reduce humidity levels in the building to prevent further damage, such as the warping of the gym floor.

Both buildings have storage and other items that were affected by the flood and will need to be cleaned or even replaced.

The football field and track are suffering from severe damage. Even though most of the water has drained off the Laird Stadium field, the damage to the mechanical and electrical systems inside the building and the need to clean up the interior and exterior of the facility will likely prevent Carleton from playing any more home games at Laird Stadium this season. According to Fred Rogers, both Northfield High School and St. Olaf have graciously offered their fields for Carleton football games. The Homecoming football game versus Augsburg College on Saturday, Oct. 2, has already been moved to Memorial Field at Northfield High School. The upcoming Carleton vs. St. Olaf game, originally scheduled to be played at Carleton, will most likely be played at St. Olaf.

Unfortunately, the eight-lane track around the football field will need to be completely replaced. No track and field meets will be held at Laird Stadium during the 2011 outdoor season. Plans are being made to accommodate the season at other locations.

Once the waters recede, Cowling Arboretum and Carleton grounds-crew staff will assess the extent of erosion experienced in the Arboretum, including the status of the tennis courts in the lower Arb.

Additionally, a total of 31 students were evacuated from Wilson, Allen, Prentice, and Geffert houses. While the College has worked hard to make comfortable and arrangements for these students during the crisis, Carleton Vice President Fred Rogers, hopes to allow these students to return to their residences by the end of this week.

Carleton’s housing facilities also experienced some problems with flooded basements.
“On Friday we got an email around noon saying we needed to evacuate,” said Nicole Feldman ’11, a resident of Allen House, a campus-owned house on Division St. bordering the Cannon. “Fortunately enough, people were around me who told me that my house was being evacuated.”

Residents from Allen House, like Feldman, later returned to move a week’s supply of their things to Musser in a van provided by Security.  “Considering how rare these things are, and how extreme, I think they handled it as best they could,” she said, referring to the College’s actions. Feldman noted that although water and sewage had entered the basement of Allen House, most residents kept nothing there.

In nearby Prentice House, however, Kristina Taketomo ’11, explained there were “years of house history” in the basement that could have been damaged. To avoid this possibility, Facilities in Prentice on Friday transferred items from the basement into the living room on the first floor, recalled Taketomo, who was in class when the house’s evacuation began.
“I was in class, and my cell-phone started going crazy.  As I was leaving Leighton [from class], I ran into one of my housemates and he told me that we had to evacuate,” she said. When Taketomo arrived home, she saw the basement storage in the living room, and had an hour to move her personal belongings  to Watson, where several of the Prentice House members were relocated through Thursday. Taketomo noted that the basement sustained  water damage, but that ultimately, the flood did “build solidarity” among the members of her house.

Spehn also stated that Facilities is working with the College insurance adjuster on repair cost estimates. It is currently too early to know the full story behind the costs as Facilities continues to work with other members of the community to assess the damage.
Regarding downtown Northfield, David Hvistendahl, owner of Froggy Bottoms Riverside Pub and an attorney with Hvistendahl, Moersch, Dorsey & Hahn, spoke to the damage occurring at both the law firm, nearby Salon Synergy, and, most notably for Carleton students, Froggy Bottoms.

“We got about $200,000 of damage to Froggy Bottoms,” he stated, also noting “another $75,000 in damage at the law office.”

Hvistendahl said Froggy Bottoms would take “months to get rebuilt.” According to Hvistendahl, “the sandbags just got blown away” by the flood. “All our power comes out from the basement,” he explained, which is now flooded. “Without some kind of aid, we’re totally shut down,” he said. “We really need the city to step up.”

None of the Northfield public school buildings were physically damaged by the flood. According Margaret Colangelo from Northfield Middle School, the school released at the regular time. The high school allowed any students who wanted to help sandbag to jump on a bus and go to sandbagging sites. The middle school received some standing water on its fields. When asked about the impact of the flood, Northfield Middle School Principal, Jeff Pesta, replied, “I am happy to report that the impact on us was minimal.” The building had two minor leaks in the activity wing. In addition, one staff member needed to stay home on Friday to take care of a flooded basement.

Over the last 40 years, Northfield has had water rise over both walls of the Cannon River, but rarely as high as during the past week. In responding to the crisis, Vice President Fred Rogers said, “Safety was our first priority.”

This attitude was also exhibited by Carleton students and the rest of the Northfield community in keeping the town safe. Kelly Scheuerman, Assistant Director of Acting in the Community Together (ACT), received an email around 9 a.m. Friday from a community member asking Scheuerman to alert the Carleton community to the need for volunteers as sandbagging efforts downtown had begun.  In addition to notifying ACT volunteers, Scheuerman emailed sports teams and spoke with ACT Student Coordinators in the hope of maximizing the Carleton response.

“My friends and I decided to head into town and help with the flood efforts because we were told we were needed and wanted to get involved,” said Devin Holewinski '13. “Because we were at the end of the line, the bottoms of our legs were submerged in the flood water that had seeped through the sandbag barrier; when the line moved down and Danny and I moved on top of the 5-foot-high wall of sandbags we almost slipped several times while passing the sizable bag. The experience was great nevertheless. It was a pleasure to help out the community and we certainly felt like our efforts were appreciated.”
 Leah Eby ‘13 heard about the need for sandbaggers downtown through her job as the One-time and Special Events Student Coordinator for the ACT Center, and later lent her help.  “The sandbags were heavy, but a bunch of students from Olaf and Carleton were there so we formed two lines leading toward the water and passed the sandbags along the line.  The whole experience was a little overwhelming, but it was such an amazing feeling to look up and down the line of people and see the number of students that had showed up to help a town and a community that they are only a part of for 9 out of 12 months of the year.”              

Scheuerman stressed that though the rain has ended, there remains a need for volunteers.

Northfield.org is now the primary organization in charge of flood clean up, and they predict two to four weeks of efforts are still ahead.  Volunteers can sign up on the website in groups, and everyone is encouraged to help out in whatever way possible.

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