Rice Gets Back to Business
After a challenging weekend, Rice’s Vice President for Administration Kevin Kirby felt confident the university had passed the test posed by Hurricane Ike, the most serious storm the campus has seen in decades.
“It’s a judgment call as to what we call ‘normalcy,’ but I think we’ll be there by Monday,” he said a few days after the hurricane, looking at blue skies through the windows in his Allen Center office. “We don’t have any building we can’t use, though we had damage to almost every building,” he said. “Most of the problems are with windows and roofs — nothing that would keep us from operating or using the buildings.”
Several construction projects, including the new Rice Children’s Campus on Chaucer Drive and the Collaborative Research Center at the corner of Main Street and University Boulevard, suffered minor damage that was expected to only minimally delay their completion.
“The biggest challenge to all the construction is that the labor force was significantly reduced in the week post-Ike,” said Barbara White Bryson, vice president for Facilities, Engineering and Planning (FE&P).
The “R” Room at Rice Stadium sustained some damage, but other athletic facilities came through the storm fine. “Rice Stadium has been standing since 1951, and it’s not going anywhere,” said Athletics Director Chris Del Conte, who added that the baseball stadium and Autry Court, which is nearing the completion of its renovation, also are in good shape.
Bryson said it will take some time to fix the “R” Room, as six windows facing the football stadium were blown out by Ike, and the interior sustained substantial water damage. It was among the initial buildings to get attention from FE&P cleanup crews.
“Our first-response tasks were to maintain infrastructure, address life-safety issues, board up windows where they were broken and clean up the largest water-intrusion areas,” Bryson said. “We had water in a few basements, most seriously over at Brown College. Those kinds of things had to be attended to right away. Happily, we kept power to most of the campus all the way through the event.”
On a scale of one to 10, she said, Ike probably was a three for Rice in overall impact. “But it’s the kind of event,” Bryson said, “that we end up dealing with for weeks and months in an effort to get everybody back to normal operations.”