Sept. 9, 2010

Reconstruction begins as flood cleanup winds down

by Diana Pounds

The 17 university structures breached by floodwaters on Aug. 11 are mostly clean, dry and awaiting reconstruction. Another 35 buildings that fell victim to rising storm water that day are in various stages of repair.

Recover, then reconstruct

Bringing facilities back from a flood is a two-phase process, said Dave Miller, director of facilities planning and management operations. The good news is that most facilities on campus are through, or nearly through, the first phase, characterized as recovery. In this phase, the focus is on removing water and muck, and making facilities clean, dry, and safe.

The next phase, reconstruction, is or soon will be under way at ISU's flood-damaged facilities. Reconstruction starts with a room-by-room assessment of each facility's infrastructure.


  • Remove water and muck
  • Walk through, make punchlist ("to-do's"), finish tasks
  • Let facility "rest" for 24 hours (no people, no running equipment)
  • Conduct environmental tests for such things as mold and bacteria


  • Conduct room-by-room assessment
  • Decide what to pitch, recondition or replace
  • Call in contractors, workers to wire, plumb, rebuild

"We look at wires, pipes, equipment, everything, to determine what needs to be kept, thrown away, reconditioned or replaced," Miller said.

Until those complex assessments have been completed, it's difficult to determine when closed facilities can be reopened, he said.

$4.4 million, so far

Nor is it possible to estimate yet the total damage on campus from the flooding and rain. The figure officials can cite is what's been spent thus far. Through last week, ISU had spent some $4.4 million on flood recovery. Those costs included work completed by ServiceMaster and Cotton USA, as well as other labor and materials.

While some of the flood-damaged facilities (Hilton, Scheman, Lied and the Family Resource Center) remain closed for repairs, all 35 campus buildings that sustained storm water damage are open. Repairs are under way at most of these facilities, which took on water when storm water backed up through floor drains or ran in through doors and windows. Ten of the buildings suffered a second storm water setback during an Aug. 31 downpour.

Buildings most severely damaged by storm water included Hamilton Hall, which sustained 4 inches of water damage and Horticulture Hall, with 6 inches. ServiceMaster crews were dispatched to clean up 22 of the buildings. Other buildings with relatively light water damage were cleaned by ISU staff with wet/dry vacuums.

FEMA team on campus for several months

A six-member team from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and two representatives from Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management arrived on campus Aug. 30. The federal disaster declaration for 57 Iowa counties is retroactive to June 1 and also includes the July 18 windstorm and Aug. 31 rainstorm that did damage on campus.

FEMA officials have estimated that their task of documenting and assessing damage to campus facilities could continue through December, said Pam Cain, associate vice president for business and finance and chair of the university's Disaster Recovery Coordinating Team.

The good news is that Iowa State is able to proceed with flood recovery work on a parallel track and its own timeline. For example, a request for bids is out to renovate flooded apartments and the Family Resource Center in University Village, and purchase orders are ready to go for replacement equipment elsewhere on campus.

Cain said the university is following the appropriate federal guidelines and processes. The goal is to receive the maximum reimbursement allowed by law. She said that ultimately a complex layering of insurance payments, FEMA reimbursements and a university cost share will cover the price tag of this summer's disasters. In the short term, that will create cash flow issues for Iowa State, one of many details the coordinating team is working out during its multiple meetings each week.