Could Kent State flood?

Dave Yochum

Despite Heer Hall wetness, experts say it’s not likely

Although Heer Hall is a dry dorm, it got very wet for freshman fashion merchandising major Rachel Bauer last Wednesday.

During last week’s heavy rainfall, Bauer’s next-door neighbor stopped by to see if her room was flooding.

“Next door had water coming in, then right after she asked if I was having problems, the rain began to come in through the walls and hall,” Bauer said. “Water was coming from the walls, coming down the stairs — it was bad.”

While most of Kent State’s campus buildings have been strategically built on high ground and away from flood planes, there are still certain areas that could be, and have been, susceptible to major flooding under the right conditions. Case in point, Heer Hall.

As reported by the Daily Kent Stater last week, Heer Hall, one of Kent’s Honors College residence halls, suffered major flooding to its lower-level short wing from the recent rainstorms, causing the evacuation of those housed in the structure.

Coming days after Hurricane Katrina transformed the once vibrant city of New Orleans into a lake, a campus full of flood-savvy students are left to ask, “Can Kent State’s buildings and campus really handle severe storms or is the Heer Hall incident a fluke?”

Up until last week, the assumption around campus was that Kent State had no flooding problem. As Heer residents affected by the nearly two to three inches of water in their residence halls and hallways can attest, however, that outside water can definitely become an indoor nightmare.

Heer Hall aside, experts who know and understand Kent State’s topography maintain that, except for isolated problem areas, the campus lends a natural helping hand to the water drainage systems, and problems should be minimal.

However, the constant construction and expansion on campus might eventually cripple nature’s ability to contain rainfall and cause more concern for those working or living in lower-lying buildings.

“I think in general the campus buildings are pretty secure when it comes to flooding,” offered one of Kent State’s foremost experts of campus topography, associate professor of geography Mandy Munro-Stasiuk. “As of now, Kent has a lot of green space, which allows for rainfall to be absorbed.

“The only potential flooding problems I see could occur near the areas on campus where there is constant construction or near the parking lots. Construction work could always cause some flooding in terms of runoff, but parking lots, buildings or anything else that covers up the green space with asphalt or cement automatically increases the chances of flooding. When asphalt is laid down, the water simply has nowhere to go.”

Like Munro-Stasiuk, professor Tom Schmidlin, whose research interests include climatology, severe weather and natural hazards, also agrees that Kent’s campus is well-planned and on high-enough ground that there shouldn’t be a problem with flooding in most cases. He, too, sees a potential problem in constantly constructing new buildings on campus.

“Kent State is on high ground,” he said. “Because of that, water flows away from campus and there aren’t really any areas that would see major flooding. But anytime you put in new buildings or parking lots, there will be more spots that now have a greater chance of having flood problems than before.”

The warnings and talk of future water-drainage problems didn’t come soon enough for Kent State students like Bauer and Heer Hall resident Maria Mauntel, who also waded the flood waters in Heer Hall first-hand.

“There was actually so much water everywhere I suggested we use the hallway for a slip and slide!” Mauntel said. “Afterwards, though, everything smelled like sewage and they’ve had fans in the hall trying to dry it out ever since. The fans won’t do anything, though; the carpet should just be torn up because mold is going to grow under there if they don’t. ”

While neither resident had any personal possessions ruined by rainwater, Kent State has informed those at Heer Hall to photograph any damaged items so that they may be replaced free of charge by the university.

Despite not losing anything but sleep over the flooding in Heer, Bauer expressed displeasure regarding the entire situation.

“The flooding was something that shouldn’t have happened in the first place and it could happen again,” she said. “It still hasn’t been fixed.

“The RAs did a really good job of handling the situation, but it still needs resolved. Maybe they can caulk the walls or something. I don’t know.”

Contact features correspondent Dave Yochum at [email protected].