Hurricane Irene blows by URI, topples trees, causes losses

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KINGSTON, R.I. – August 29, 2011 – UPDATE 11 a.m.

The University of Rhode Island is open for business. While there are scattered power outages on the Kingston Campus, there is no state of emergency. Therefore, all employees not previously approved for leave are expected to be at work. If they are not able to work in their specific work location due to a power outage, they must either relocate to another space either in the same building or elsewhere on campus, or they may discharge personal time, vacation or RT time if they don’t report to work or if they leave work before the end of their scheduled workday.
Any questions should be addressed to either Anne Marie Coleman (874-2414) or Laura Kenerson (874-5271) in Human Resources.

Hurricane Irene grazed the University of Rhode Island Sunday with gusty winds and light rain, causing trees to fall and daytime power losses at the Narragansett Bay Campus, the W. Alton Jones Campus, East Farm and various sites at the Kingston Campus.

J. Vernon Wyman, URI assistant vice president of Business Services, said the University put in place a coordinated, comprehensive effort to respond to the storm.

“The advanced planning with key University personnel, establishment of an emergency operations center, the deployment of Facilities Services and the increased police complement served the institution well,” Wyman said. “The ability to locate the emergency operations center in the Ryan Center and its staff support were critical to our success.”

“The emergency operations center was impressive in its ability to respond rapidly to issues and to coordinate with the state emergency management system,” said Robert Drapeau, director of Public Safety and Emergency Management. “Once the state communications system became strained, we were able to alter our communications method promptly.”

The following is a summary of some of the activity that occurred Sunday:

Narragansett firefighters responded to the Horn Laboratory about 1:30 p.m. Sunday for a smoking generator. No one was injured while taking the generator offline.

One of Irene’s gusts felled a large oak tree Sunday at 6:50 a.m. on Upper College Road near the campus gates at Briar Lane and Campus Avenue, which caused power losses at the Gateway Apartments and the Alumni Center. Campus crews had the tree removed from Upper College Road by 10:30 a.m. National Grid was due to respond to repair the pole and electric lines. The tree fell on some electrical lines, which caused a brief fire in some nearby trees. At about 11 a.m., a large tree fell on Butterfield Road near Browning Hall. A Lands and Grounds crew responded within minutes to remove the tree.

In preparation for the storm, URI emergency, police and facilities personnel and administrators met several times last week to prepare and coordinate efforts for the storm.

Shad Ahmed, URI Emergency Management coordinator, and Josh Manfredo, URI Emergency Management specialist, directed URI’s emergency operations center, which opened at 8:30 Saturday night and closed Sunday night around 7 p.m. in the Ryan Center. Campus public safety, emergency management, administrative, housing and communications officials staffed the center.

URI’s Boss Ice Arena opened Saturday around noon as a shelter for dogs and cats, under the auspices of the state Department of Environmental Management and the state veterinarian. Sunday morning, five pets were being housed there and then were returned to local shelters by the afternoon. The pet shelter at the arena was then closed.

Notice to faculty and staff

The University will be continuing to clean up after the storm on Monday and is prepared to open for business at its campuses. University employees should monitor news media sources that they are able to access with regard to decisions about the opening of state offices on Monday. In any event, essential University employees should report to work as scheduled.

URI updates early move-in schedule

University of Rhode Island students who were scheduled to move into campus housing Monday, Aug. 29 as part of the early arrival program should now move in Tuesday, Aug. 30.

In addition, the remainder of the early move-in program will resume its original schedule on Tuesday. The first day of full operations at Hope Commons dining center will also be Tuesday.

Postponing Monday’s early move-in for one day for such groups as That Ram Band, student leadership members and student employees will give all University staff a chance to thoroughly assess damage caused by Hurricane Irene, remove any possible hazards and barriers and conduct general cleanup duties. During the height of Sunday’s storm, University crews were dealing with downed trees, power outages and downed utility lines.

To obtain the latest information about the Early Move-In program, please visit the Department of Housing and Residential Life web site. Regular move-in days for freshmen are Saturday, Sept. 3 and Sunday, Sept. 4 and for upperclassmen, Monday, Sept. 5 through Tuesday, Sept. 6. Classes begin Sept. 7.