Six weeks after a once-in-a-century flood left UW-Superior feet deep in storm and sewage water damaging all 16 of its buildings, the campus is now ready for students to arrive for the fall semester.
UW-Superior Chancellor Renee Wachter got the call late on June 19: Flood waters were overwhelming campus pumps and electricity was out. “We started literally with flashlights walking building to building to take a look to see where the most water was coming in. Already we knew in Old Main that we had sewage back-up of several inches which lead us to believe the worst and sure enough, that was confirmed when we went over to the library and it was like watching a river coming in through the utility door.”
150,000 books in the library basement were floating. In another building, a Lake Superior Research Institute experiment was washed out. That was an $87,000 loss. Electrical and computer systems were damaged. In all, total losses are set at $23.5 million.
200-plus workers from private contractors and a catastrophic recovery team descended on the campus. Now Wachter says the campus is open, including the library... sans books. “Short of having replacement books in the library, we’ll be ready to go. I mean, everything will be business as usual. All of the other buildings are completed in terms of reconstruction.”
UW-Superior Facilities Management Director Tom Fennessey says, “It’s amazing. It's absolutely amazing. I mean, that's when I say that when the students come back, a lot of them won't even know anything happened.”
About $17 million is covered by insurance, with another $6.5 million uninsured. But with a federal disaster declaration last week, 75 percent of that will be reimbursed by FEMA.