WHEN THE Susquehanna River crested at a record level of 32.75 feet on Sept. 9, 2011, classes had already been cancelled for a day and a half and most students had returned home. By the time classes resumed on Sept. 19, another record was set: the longest weather-related closure in BU’s history.
Although some students, faculty and staff were adversely affected by the natural disaster that flooded 25 percent of Bloomsburg last fall, many were eager to lend a helping hand. Student athletes remaining in town for practices and contests logged a total of 2,542 hours of volunteer time helping local residents remove water- logged belongings from their homes and shovel mud from their basements. These athletes, members of Greek organizations and other students volunteered, although a severe shortage in potable water meant showers were often unavailable.
In addition to helping their neighbors, friends and families, faculty and staff manned the phone bank at the Emergency Operations Center; cared for evacuees’ pets at the Upper Campus emergency shelter, Annie’s Place; and pitched in as needed at the Red Cross and Agape, the faith-based social service agency that coordinated flood relief efforts.
Facilities Management and University Police provided more than 2,300 hours of support to town police and town work crews. Employees used 18 pieces of university-owned equipment to clean debris and transport evacuees and helpers to their destinations. Aramark, the university’s food service provider, donated food to Agape for distribution to the flood victims, and BU’s athletic department worked with Bloomsburg High School to provide alternative venues for their athletic activities. A month after flood waters receded, BU employees and students, along with volunteers from Mansfield University, provided nearly 50 local children with playthings at a Toys for Tots giveaway, and athletes gave away free tickets to the Huskies’ home football game against Shippensburg.
Columbia County and the Town of Bloomsburg will take a long time to recover from this devastating flood, and many areas will never be the same. But BU’s response to the affects of Tropical Storm Lee showed the university and the town are one community — Bloomsburg. •