University cleans up quickly from ‘100-year storm’
By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University employees who were soaked by Tuesday’s severe thunderstorms and then battled floods, closed freeways and other hazards during a nightmare commute home were greeted Wednesday by sunshine and a campus returned to its pristine beauty.
The impromptu lakes and rivers that transformed GCU into a marsh filled with knee-high water in some places had receded Wednesday morning.
Gone also was the chaos that staff and faculty faced in one of the most difficult evening commutes in recent memory.
GCU was at the epicenter of what the National Weather Service called a “100-year storm” because there is only a 1 percent chance of it happening in a given year. The area along Interstate 17 near GCU got hit hardest by the deluge, which dumped nearly three inches of rain in two hours at the height of the evening rush.
“Three inches fell inside of a mile here and flooded the freeway, flooded us and flooded everything around us, but we made it,” said GCU Police Chief Kenneth Laird.
The University was ready for the sustained drenching, said Richard Oesterle, director of campus development.
“All of the new construction has handled all of the storm-water runoff,” he said. “We spent a lot of time and money putting water retention in place on campus.”
Dozens of facilities employees and public safety employees were out in force, and an outside water-extraction company was called in.
The rainwater that found its way into some buildings was quickly removed. Oesterle said the rain also caused about a half-dozen sink holes, and one of them, near the Papago Apartments, was about 6-8 feet deep.
Public safety officers distributed buckets, put red cones around sink holes, cleaned clogs from storm drains, directed traffic and more, according to Sgt. Dan Miller.
“Everyone who was not in a booth was outside helping in some way,” Miller said. “There was not one inch of any public safety officer who was dry because we were all soaked.”
One employee’s car floated onto a curb, and another’s vehicle broke down behind The Grove residence halls.
“We have a very substantial draining system on our campus,” said Laird. “It’s obviously not infallible, but there are massive pipes on most of our structures that drain off very, very well.”
Contact Laurie Merrill at 602-639-6511 or firstname.lastname@example.org