KSC students with cars parked in the Winchester lot were advised last week to move their cars to higher ground or face the risk of water damage.
On Monday, Jan. 22, KSC Campus Safety sent an email to students parked in the Winchester lot, warning about the forecasted inch of rain and high water levels of the Ashuelot River.
The Winchester lot has flooded in the past, but this month’s flooding was especially abnormal, according to Assistant Director of Physical Plant Bud Winsor.
“When the Winchester lot does flood or has flooded, there’s usually been a heavy rain event in the spring or fall, but not like this. This has never happened in my history here,” Winsor said.
He explained due to a flash freeze earlier this January, ice dams formed and choked the river less than one mile away from campus. The chokepoint causes water to come up through the drains and flood the lot.
“I have worked here for 24 years, and I have never seen ice dams cause that in the Winchester lot during the winter time,” Winsor said.
Despite the unprecedented conditions, to the best of his knowledge, Winsor knows of no vehicles that were totaled.
“There was no water above the floorboards, it was just around the tires. There were a couple of people we helped chisel around the tires to get the cars out,” Winsor said.
While it was the Grounds Crew’s job to monitor the flooding situation, Campus Safety’s job was to alert students about it.
“We’re out there to make sure that everything is okay and to try and notify students if there’s impending or active flooding out there,” Associate Director of Campus Safety Stuart Mitchell said.
“It’s up to the student to move their car or decide not to.”
While students aren’t required to move their vehicles, Mitchell gave a reason on why they ought to.
“A vehicle that’s flooded can be totaled. It can get into the engine, get into the passenger compartment, damage electrical components and mechanical components,” Mitchell said.
In the event of a flood risk in the lot, Mitchell recommended that students sign up for the Keene Emergency Notification System, check their campus email and, should their vehicle be at risk, to move it to higher ground.
Campus Safety has advised its officers to not ticket students who moved their cars during the event.
Mitchell stressed the importance of students being prepared for future flooding situations. “Make sure the vehicle is registered, make sure the contact information is good, monitor your campus email and sign up for the alert system,” Mitchell said.
Sophomore and psychology major Emily Sweet, who has been parking in the Winchester lot for the past two years, checked on her car the night she received the email.
“It was completely frozen over. There were sheets of ice, layers upon layers,” Sweet said.
After some effort, she was able to get her car out of the lot. “I think because my tires are pretty good I was able to get out with just one person pushing,” Sweet said.
Others parked in the lot didn’t find themselves as lucky.
“The guy who was parked next to me could not get out…the three of us pushed his car to help him and he could not get out,” Sweet said.
When asked what preparations could have been done to prevent the situation, Sweet suggested adding more salt out onto the lot.
Aside from a major civil engineering project, there isn’t much the college can do to prevent these floods, Mitchell said.
Vincent Moore can be contacted at email@example.com