Near-biblical flooding closes parking lots on campus

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Toby Stannard wading in knee-high water

Jonas Hrebeniuk

"RIDE IT HARD AND PUT IT AWAY WET," INDEED. Tow truck operator Toby Stannard deals with the cold Thames River water as he hooks up the front wheel of a car to his truck. Dozens of vehicles are stranded and damaged in the Elgin Hall parking lot due to river flooding.

Many students and faculty were surprised to find their cars under more than a foot of water after recent flash flooding in several Western parking lots.

Due to a quick melt of snow coupled with rain on Tuesday night, the Thames River overflowed, causing a number of problems across campus.

Ann Hutchison, director of media relations, said the flood is one of the worst Western’s campus has seen in almost 30 years.

The Medway and Talbot parking lots have been closed as a result. The Chemistry lot was also partially blocked off yesterday morning.

Elgin Austen, director of the Campus Community Police Service, said the CCPS was quick to respond to the rising water levels. “We called out the Emergency Response Team. Students were advised to get their vehicles out of the parking lot at 9:30 p.m. [Tuesday] night.”

Hutchison said residence staff knocked on doors at Elgin Hall, Alumni House, Medway-Sydenham Hall and Delaware Hall to warn students about the impending flood.

Although some students were able to move their cars to the Huron Flats before the flood, many vehicles were caught up in the rush of icy Thames water.

“It’s fair to say there are some damages,” Hutchison said. “The water in some of the lots came up past the floors.”

Goose at edge of flooded bank

CCPS and the ERT spent most of yesterday towing submerged vehicles to the Huron Flats behind TD Waterhouse Stadium.

Although Western paid for the removal of flooded cars, water damage remains a pertinent issue.

“Who’s going to pay for the damages?” Tom Bol, staff member at Physical Plant, inquired while watching tow trucks fish cars out of the Medway parking lot.

“If that was my car, I don’t know what I’d do.”

Heather Skidmore, a first-year media, information and technoculture student, confirmed her car was flooded, but declined to comment on the details of the incident.

Skidmore said she received no warning and was visibly frustrated by the inconvenience caused by the flood.

Hutchison urged owners of damaged vehicles to contact their insurance companies immediately.

“It’s the best place to start,” she said.

Administration also recommended students and faculty affected by the flood, who urgently need transportation, should visit Elgin Hall’s front desk for accommodations.

Hutchison listed job interviews or medical appointments as situations the university would help with.

Although the water levels are beginning to recede, many observers are still shocked at how quickly the river overflowed.

“I walked by here last night and it wasn’t flooded nearly as much,” Lee-Anna Sangster, a philosophy PhD candidate, said. “It’s crazy.”

Bol expressed similar sentiments: “I’ve never seen the river this high.”

He questioned why the university chose to develop areas so close to the river. “If you build that close, this is what you get.”

Hutchison maintained the parking lots were built under the proper regulations. “We fit the bill and follow all regulations asked of us.”

Since more rain is expected on Friday, the Medway and Thames lots will remain closed until Saturday at least.

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