By Joanna Sperapanni
Elm Staff Writer
On an unassuming, bright and sunny day this spring semester, a wild windstorm ripped through the Washington College campus, downpouring for a half hour, and destroying some of the school’s athletic equipment. The storm landed mid-afternoon on April 1, and severely damaged the scoreboard at Kibler Field, the Roy Kirby Jr. Stadium scores table, the fence lining the stadium, the stadium’s skybox, and both the baseball and softball batting cages. The storm also hit surrounding businesses. Pizza Hut was struck by lightning and caught on fire.
Gerald Roderick, director of Public Safety commented on the storm’s impact and the nature of these flash storms.
“There was some tree damage, but physically no other damage to the school besides the athletic facilities,” he said. “If you look down at the damage by the field, there is a space of about 75 to 100 feet where obvious wind force just came down and took out a bunch of trees on both lines of the tracks, and the scoreboard came down with that wind. That scoreboard was on high beams, and the storm disintegrated that concrete, and it just snapped over. I’ve never seen anything like this. It goes to show you just how confined a wind burst can be.”
He sent out a warning email fifteen minutes before the worst of the storm hit at 2:15 p.m.
It read, “We are under a severe thunderstorm warning until 3 p.m. this afternoon. Storms will be moving into the area shortly. Take cover inside of buildings. This is a very strong thunderstorm.”
The extreme damage done to the school facilities shines a light on the necessity of taking precautions during torrential storms with high wind.
“First and foremost, I just am thankful that no one got hurt, and I guess times like this are why you have insurance. You don’t ever want to use it, but it’s important,” Thad Moore, the director of Athletics, said.
“Our insurance report just came in, so what we do now is collect estimates for the cost to replace everything, go about and get the contractors to fix up everything,” he said.
Surprisingly, even with the extreme damage, the athletic season has not been affected by the need for repairs. No games have been cancelled, and temporary equipment was quickly set-up at the athletic buildings.
Moore said, “We were fortunate enough to get a temporary scoreboard put up, so we were able to have all the lacrosse games, and they’ve gone off without a hitch. We brought in an old scoreboard, wired it up, and have it temporarily set up, we also have a temporary scores table. Everything worked well last night [for the men’s lacrosse game on April 12] and that will probably be how we will finish it out for the rest of the season.”
Taking into account that there are only three weeks left of the semester, the majority of the repairs have been scheduled to take place then.
“You just can’t get a new scoreboard in this time frame. We have about three more stadium games left, and then a few more softball and baseball [games], so we’ll replace everything in the summer. We’re just trying to make the best of it and get through the season,” Moore said.
The same kind of wind burst ripped the roof line off of the stadium’s skybox, causing extreme roof damage.
“What we are hearing happened to the skybox was that a big microburst came through, and the wind was isolated, and the skybox roof lifted up off. If you look at the stadium, you can see the roof line and the flashes all bent. Structurally, it’s still safe to have spectators in there, but it will also be replaced when we’re finished,” Moore said.
This is not the first time that WC has suffered storm damage, and not the only time that the athletics department has been primarily affected.
“We had a storm that flooded the turf and destroyed it, about three years ago this fall, and we had to completely replace it, and the whole fall season was in the grass fields. That was significantly worse, but this was still a great amount of damage that we sustained,” Moore said.
The athletic facilities will undergo full repairs over the summer, and will be replaced before the start of practice for the fall 2017 semester.
By Joanna Sperapanni