A broadcasting building that is part of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications is marked with pink flyers as being a “flood-prone area” and is sealed off by tarps and sand bags. (Photo by Sammy Sobich)
USC is prepping its large urban campus for high winds and heavy rain – and working to assure students, especially freshmen, that they will be safe during the coming tropical storm.
Students won’t be in class Friday, but some will remain in their on-campus dorms as Hurricane Ian moves toward South Carolina.
Classes are canceled, as are classes at all Midlands K-12 schools and most colleges. But the school has crews and equipment in place as part of its severe weather plan, preparing the grounds for impact, said Zach Kay, assistant director of facilities at the University of South Carolina.
“Crew members have been deploying sandbags at known low-lying areas as well as performing additional mitigation measures to help protect assets,” said Koby Padgett, communications manager for the school’s Division of Communications and Marketing.
Crews also are performing fuel checks to ensure emergency generators are ready if the need arises, Kay said.
Essential workers will be on campus Friday to coordinate with other emergency personnel.
Of USC’s freshman class of more than 6,500, about 3,000 of them are from out of state. That means this is the first time several students have dealt with a tropical storm.
Freshman Taylor Peirce is from Concord, Massachusetts, and lives in Green Quad on campus. She said she does not know how to feel after being told about how to stay safe earlier this week.
“They’ve been warning us, but I feel like half the people think it’s going to be nothing, and half the people are worried about it,” Peirce said. “So, I don’t know whether to be worried or not.”
Some students, such as freshman Michael Plumer from Lexington, have been doing their own research to keep their neighbors informed.
“There was an email (University Housing) sent out that told us areas that would flood, and that was really helpful to find out,” Plumer said. “But also, since I’ve been here before and I’ve seen Columbia flood a lot, I’ve been telling people to stay away from low areas.”
Josh Wise, the director of strategic initiatives for University Housing, said the university has encouraged on-campus residents to take precautions, such as moving beds away from windows and ensuring students stay informed.
Maintenance teams “are available 24 hours a day, 365 days out of the year, and that includes throughout weather situations as well,” Wise said.
USC’s maintenance line can be reached at 803-777-FIXX for any reports of leaking or water damage.
“We also know there are certain areas on campus that are prone to flooding, including some of the areas where residence halls are,” Wise said. “So, again, just be careful in and out of the residence halls, and make sure students just pay attention to the weather and Carolina Alert (automated text system).”
Other Midlands emergency responders are also on standby, as USC’s vast campus stretches across much of downtown.
The Columbia Fire Department has systems in place to monitor wind speeds and flood levels across Richland County to guard against flash flooding.
“At this stage we are making sure people are aware – it’s just one of those things we don’t know how bad it will get,” said Mike DeSumma, public information officer for the fire department.
Some commercial areas surrounding campus, such as Five Points, are at a high risk for flash floods. This presents a heightened risk for stalling vehicles – and students, who often are on foot.
“It doesn’t take a hurricane for us to respond to car rescues,” DeSumma said.
It only takes one foot of water to move a car, he said.
Tarps and sand bags seal off an entrance to a USC building. (Photo by Jayden Simmons)
A door in the stairwell of the Maxcy College residence hall is ringed by water-absorbing “snakes.” (Photo by Jayden Simmons)
Absorbent floor pads that are used to soak up water that might leak into buildings sits in its packaging. (Photo by Jayden Simmons)
ABOUT THE JOURNALISTS
Sobich is a senior from Charleston at the University of South Carolina, pursuing a bachelor’s in journalism and master’s in strategic communication. She writes about the modern South, such as the farm-to-table movement, travel, music and events. In her free time, she fishes, boats and photographs the Lowcountry. She maintains a social media presence, writing about Charleston, from the restaurant scene to local brands and artisans.
Simmons is a senior journalism major at the University of South Carolina with an interest in sports media. He writes for the Boston-based sports media company, LFG Sports covering fan-related sports topics such as college rivalry culture. Simmons is from Goose Creek, S.C., and is an aspiring author with an interest in sports fiction. He also writes music and poetry. Simmons is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and the National Association of Black Journalists.