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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Repairs continue after winter storms damage campus facilities

Photo by Paul Burke

The extreme winter weather Texas faced in February caused significant damages across Texas A&M’s campus, some of which have yet to be resolved. 

Amid February’s historic winter weather, homes and buildings all over Texas experienced damage, including the Texas A&M campus.
With broken pipes and other issues due to weather-related conditions, water had to be quickly turned off as pipes were fixed, which prompted SSC Director of Operations Paul Tisch to house maintenance workers in A&M’s on-campus hotel ahead of the storms.
Tisch said their plan was to do triage during the storms, which included stopping problems at the source and doing what clean-up they could to help prevent as much damage as possible. During the storms, triage was the main goal for Tisch and his staff.
“Between Sunday night into early Monday morning we started seeing the effects of the freeze with some broken pipes and broken coils on campus which needed to be sealed off before they could create too much damage to the campus,” Tisch said.
After the storms, remediation was Tisch’s next goal. SSC, along with independent contractors, worked on more clean-up, drying out flooded areas and demolishing ruined dry-wall.
“Now we are in the stage of building back, so we are going to be hiring a lot of contractors to build those spaces that were damaged,” Tisch said. “The space itself will build back, and the coils that were damaged we will replace.”
Looking overall at the storms, Residential Life Director of Administrative & Support Services Carol Binzer said the freeze had more of a social effect than a facilities effect due to the addition of COVID-19 and the need for social distancing and quarantining.
“Without classes or student org[anization] meetings or programs going on, students’ sense of cabin fever was intensified,” Binzer said. “They did avail themselves of fun outdoors, but even those with cars could not get out and about, even if they could find open businesses. With COVID[-19] protocols in place, encouraging physical distancing and mask wearing, the confinement to rooms for days on end was a real test. [Since] then, they have faced two weeks of piled on assignments and catch-up work from the time ‘off.’”
Binzer said she heard many students who were without power and water stayed with friends on campus due to the availability of these utilities. She said campus seemed to have “brownouts” the first day, though power and water remained steady for students afterward.
“Buildings have emergency generators and emergency lighting in cases of power outages, as prescribed by university practice and state law,” Binzer said. “There were no significant outages, which means students were warm, had light [and] IPTV and the internet continued to function for them.”
With damage happening all over Texas, Tisch said it is hard to pick and choose buildings to winterize in the South because this much winter weather is uncommon for the area and the cost seems to outweigh the actual use in some areas that do not see the cold weather on a regular basis.
“To winterize a building when you don’t anticipate having this type of weather event is very costly,” Tisch said. “Do you do this in anticipation for something that you may not see for 100 years? That’s where you have to draw the line.”
According to an article from CBS, the February storms could cost Texas more than other historical storms in the area.
“The economic impact of Texas’ weeklong freeze and power outages could rival the damage caused by some of the most destructive hurricanes ever to hit the U.S., according to an estimate from economists in the state,” the article reads.
Tisch said at minimum, it will take a couple of months to completely return everything on campus to its original state due to the lack of necessary materials within the area.
“You just don’t know because with all of the damage that the state had, will there be enough resources to do it all as quickly as we want to?” Tisch said. “Right now we are seeing that there are going to be laytimes on things that we are going to need for the final repair.”

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