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October 30, 2013

The Flood of 1975

October is Archives Month. The theme this year is Disasters in Ohio. On campus there have been several severe floods which have affected buildings bordering the Doan Brook culvert. While floods occurred in 1959 and 1969 this article will discuss the flood of 1975.

On Sunday, August 24, 1975 severe localized thunderstorms between 3:45 and 4:15 p.m. resulted in flooding of campus buildings along East Boulevard (now Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive). The buildings most severely damaged by the flood were Sears, Wickenden and the subbasement and tunnel area of Tomlinson. Less severe damage occurred to Crawford, Olin, White, Glennan, and Adelbert Hall. The landscaping on the west side of the campus was completely destroyed and power to Wickenden, Yost, Sears, and Tomlinson was disrupted.

The Mail Room on the first floor of Wickenden was one of the hardest hit locations. It flooded to a depth of 6.2 feet, water flowing 2.5 feet over the first floor windowsills. The mail trucks parked outside were completely submerged and had to be replaced. All the mail was in mailbags which helped minimize the damage.

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CWRU mail vans and Mail Room after the flood

Also affected in Wickenden was the high energy physics group of the Physics Department. Magenetic data tapes, equipment, instrumentation, and tools were damaged. The departmental library of books, journals, proceedings, reports, and office files were damaged. Most faculty personal papers, books, and files were damaged or lost. Physics Department losses were $150,000 and damage to Wickenden was $90,000.

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Physics laboratory and stairwell in Wickenden

Water ran over the loading dock of Tomlinson and flooded the basement and utility tunnel. The transformers in the subbasement were completely flooded, resulting in their loss. The cafeterias and kitchen areas, one flight up, were less affected as the water crested at that floor level. Food service was suspended.

The greatest monetary damage happened in Sears Library where the ground floor stack area and work areas were flooded. The area damaged was 100 long, 35 feet wide and 16 feet high with stacks of books running floor to ceiling. Damaged were 50,000 volumes and 50,000 maps. The university hired 2 experts, Willman Spawn, Conservator of the American Philosophical Society, and Peter Waters, Restoration Officer at the Library of Congress, to direct the salvage operation. Ten thousand volumes were permanently lost with the remainder restored. The damage to the building was $10,000 while the collection was $800,000.

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Stack area and work area in Sears Library

The Crawford ground floor was covered with 6-7 inches of water. In Glennan water came through the mechanical steam room door, flooding the corridor with 2-3 inches. Damage in White and Olin was kept to a minimum because the sump pump in Olin continued to pump after being submerged. The first floor of both buildings received 2-3 inches while the structures laboratory and electron microscope (which were at a lower elevation) received 1-2 feet, resulting in $10,000 in damage. The basement of Adelbert Hall suffered flooding from a backed-up sewer.

A complete study was done to determine how the water entered each building and how to minimize loss from flooding. The losses from the 1975 flood totaled over $1.1 million.

Posted by hxy2 at October 30, 2013 02:12 PM

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