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Weathering the storm: Georgia College works to prepare, protect and clean up after Irma


Tree limbs were scattered across Front Campus.
Photo credit: Jonathan Masters

Power was out throughout campus for several hours.
Photo credit: Jonathan Masters


Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest hurricanes on record, devastated parts of the Caribbean and Florida in mid-September. Although Milledgeville was not in the eye of the storm on Monday, Sept. 11, we experienced high winds and down pouring rains that led to problems throughout our area. Georgia College’s campus was no exception.

With ample notice that we were in path of the storm, Georgia College administration closed campus, out of an abundance of caution.

Thanks to the response from staff across campus during the closure, students staying on campus were taken care of and clean up was smooth and seamless. By the time, students and employees returned Thursday, Sept. 14, they could hardly tell a major storm had just blown through.

Here’s a small sampling of the work that took place to keep the campus safe and the effects of the storm minimal.

Mark Duclos, assistant vice president for Facilities Operations:

Crews spent countless hour removing debris.

Before the storm, our team cleaned gutters and downspouts to prevent water from backing up into buildings. We also removed debris from the surface drains to prevent water from ponding. We test generators monthly, but also tested them again on the Friday before the storm.  Items that we thought could get blown around were put up including umbrellas, chairs, potted plants, etc. Trashcans were emptied and tied together to prevent them from blowing away. We also made sure all of our equipment was gassed up along with portable gas cans and ready to go to work.

During the storm, we had staff on campus to respond to emergencies. They mainly addressed  water leaks in building and removed limbs/debris until the winds started to exceed 40 mph. Then, they rode out the storm in the shelters.

And after the storm, staff surveyed all buildings to identify problems like leaks. Grounds employees spent hours cutting up the fallen limbs and trees, while others cleared off the sidewalks. Custodians worked to clean up leaks in buildings, and electricians reset the fire alarms and panic buttons that were affected by the power failure.

Larry Christenson, executive director of University Housing:

Students ate delivered pizza while the power was out.

Prior to Irma, University Housing held numerous staff meetings to ensure both student and building safety, as well as creating a constant communication plans for both residents and families.  These plans included contingencies for loss of power, potential flooding in buildings and resident needs for both food and water through the storm.  Once the buildings lost power Monday morning, staff jumped into action by checking on residents and providing them with in-hall activities to pass the time, actively performing fire watches in buildings and delivering evening food to residents.  After the storm passed, Housing continued to frequently communicate with residents and family about the availability of services on campus and the status of the City of Milledgeville.



Don Challis, director of Public Safety and chief of police:

Public Safey patroled campus to check damage.

Public Safety staff was very involved in planning for, responding to and recovering from Hurricane Irma. Anna Lumpkin, assistant director of emergency preparedness, monitored the storm for several days before it arrived and provided campus decision makers with information regarding the strength, anticipated arrival and potential impact of Irma. She also coordinated a good deal of the university preparations and response. 

Starting at 6 a.m. the day of the storm, police officers maintained patrols of campus, checking for damages and responded to calls of downed power lines, fallen trees and leaks. When power was lost, they focused their efforts in the residence halls to make sure students were safe. In the evening, the loss of power made it difficult to feed the students. To make sure students did not go hungry a couple of emergency food runs were made, bringing food directly to the residence halls. 

While Irma had a significant impact on Georgia College – it was great to see the university come together in a strong show of collegiality.

Auxiliary Services units such as Dining Services and Parking and Transportation Services began preparing for Irma several days prior to the storm’s arrival.  While P&T was devising response and back-up plans, our dining partner, Sodexo was busy securing food and supplies to maintain business continuity regardless of what Irma brought our way.  

Kyle Cullars, associate vice president of Auxiliary Services

Earnest Harper assisted Savannah State in evacuating students.

Though the university was closed, we still had many students on campus, specifically in the residence halls.  Shuttle service was maintained as long as possible over the weekend and quickly resumed once the winds had subsided. Not only was P&T able to serve the GC community, Driver Earnest Harper took a Georgia College shuttle and assisted Savannah State in evacuation of students to Augusta. Despite the lack of electricity, the Sodexo staff made boxed lunches in the dark and worked with Public Safety to distribute food to the campus community.  Throughout the closure, Dining Services was able to maintain meal service to those who remained on campus.  
These situations are always challenging, but we’re lucky to have a fantastic team who does everything in their power to serve students.
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