Rainwater flooded Benzing Residence on the morning of Monday, Sept. 30, soiling the basement flooring and damaging the belongings of several residents. The basement of the Sigma Chi fraternity house also flooded — an occurrence which Sigma Chi House Man Michael HagEstad said happens at least once a year.
Around 5:30 a.m. on Monday, the water began leaking through a back door that leads into the basement of Benzing. The water flowed up the hall and into a study room, a workout room, and about eight residential rooms. Head Resident Assistant Jolene Estruth said the water got up to about four inches at the deepest point.
“The water started coming up the hall, coming towards me kind of like in the film ‘Titanic,’” Estruth said. “It wasn’t too deep, but enough to cover the ground and damage any items that were on the floor.”
Estruth said the college already had a crew on the way by the time somebody woke her up at 6:45 a.m., and within the following 15 minutes, the personnel had arrived, evacuated the residents, and begun resolving the issue.
During the remainder of the day, Hillsdale College maintenance personnel and Servpro, a professional water removal company, extracted the water from the floors. With the aid of college custodians, they also shampooed the carpet, deep-cleaned every surface in the rooms, and provided laundry services for any soiled bedding or clothing. Maintenance will also be conducting moisture tests for the three days following the flooding.
Estruth said the whole situation was stressful, but the college handled it in the best way possible.
“The college has been very generous to make sure that everything is taken care of,” Estruth said. “They responded very promptly and very well, especially considering that the gala is this week and they have a million other things to do.”
Associate Dean of Women Rebekah Dell gave residents the option of staying in another room in Benzing or another dormitory until the cleaning was complete. Dell has also begun the process of compensating students for any significantly damaged items.
Benzing resident sophomore Shelby Dorman said she and her roommate had no damaged items because they were able to get their belongings off the floor and onto their beds before evacuating.
“A custodian came into our room that morning to tell us there was water coming in, so we started moving things off of the ground,” Dorman said. “But then she came back and said, ‘No, you have to evacuate!’ So I guess we had no damages because we didn’t quite follow instructions.”
As of Tuesday, Dorman said she was sleeping in another room in Benzing because her belongings were still on her bed as the room was cleaned.
Because Benzing is located at the bottom of the hill on which campus sits, there are catch-basins with drains on both the north and west sides of Benzing. The basins have filled with water during previous rainfalls, but Dell said this was the first time in at least 30 years that the basins have overflowed and flooded the dormitory.
Chief Administrative Officer Rich Péwé said that because there had been significant rainfall in the four days leading up to Monday morning, the ground was saturated and all the drains up the hill of campus and down to the “bowl” behind Benzing were full.
“The basins have gotten full and subsided before,” Péwé said. “But there was a lot of rain in a short period of time, so the water did not have time to evaporate or drain away.”
Péwé also said the Slayton Arboretum was almost completely flooded, which he had never seen happen before.
Péwé said the recent construction on campus has most likely caused a greater water run-off.
“Now that we know there seems to be more water coming down the hill, whether because of how we renovated Galloway or because other surfaces are smoother now. We will make an effort to adjust and make sure this doesn’t happen in the future,” Péwé said.
In an email to the residents affected, Dell said the college had a contractor on site Monday morning and is taking active steps to ensure the “bowl” behind Benzing doesn’t overflow again.
At the Sigma Chi house, the basement flooded to the extent it does at least once a year, according to HagEstad.
“We’ve done some hodgepodge things to fix it. We’ve covered some of the windows that are at ground level, but we suspect that its actually a foundational issue,” HagEstad said.
According to HagEstad, there was a similar flood over the summer, which caused clothing stored in the basement to get moldy.
Hagestad said the fraternity is now starting to address this recurring issue and will possibly conduct a fundraiser to remodel the house.
The water that leaked in Monday damaged everything on the basement floor, including books, clothes, and even some electrical equipment.
HagEstad said the fraternity has cleaned up the water on their own in the past, but this year the maintenance department helped them out.
“This year, maintenance was fantastic,” HagEstad said. “They came in and cleaned it up in about 20 minutes. When I returned to the house after my classes, the area was all dry and smelled nice, too.”