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ISSUE 120 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/22/2006

Facilities fix hail damage

By April Wright
Variety Editor

Friday, September 22, 2006

Along with Northfield and the surrounding areas, St. Olaf facilities suffered much damage as a result of a large hailstorm on Aug. 24. As the academic year begins and construction crews make their presence known across campus, additional work is under way to fix the hail damage.

The storm dropped tennis- and baseball sized hail across the whole town, but thanks to quick action and cooperation on behalf of students, staff and visitors, no one on campus reported any serious injuries.

Buildings, cars and equipment around campus, however, sustained large amounts of damage.

Steensland Hall was home to a stained glass ceiling for 104 years. Now, the ceiling has been completely stripped away, leaving only the wooden beams to which it once clung.

Damage in Rolvaag Library and Buntrock Commons was not quite as extensive.

Some skylight panels in both buildings were broken, but as the skylights are two panes thick, the hail did not completely penetrate the building.

The fifth floor of the library sustained some water damage which, according to College Librarian Bryn Geffert, is being worked on by facilities staff.

Nearly every vehicle on campus took heavy hits. Most of the damage involved broken windows and dented bodies, but there are also reports of hailstones making large holes in seats and dashboards. Most college-owned vehicles managed to avoid damage by pulling into garages and under awnings, but others sustained damage.

The greenhouse also sustained massive losses in the storm, the most obvious being its glass ceiling.

All but a couple panes were lost, and those had to be knocked out for safety reasons. The greenhouse is currently being fitted with a temporary roof which will serve until the new Science Center is completed.

There was massive damage within the greenhouse as well.

"About 25 percent of the plants will have to be replaced," said Charles Umbanhowar, chair of environmental studies and manager of the greenhouse. The losses included some easy-to-replace plants, but also some cacti and ferns that were over 30 years old.

"We might not be able to find replacements for [those plants]" Umbanhowar said.

So far, the greenhouse staff has put in about 30 hours repotting plants and removing glass implanted in the plants’ bodies.

Many plants took only cosmetic damage and will recover when their new leaves grow in. Others lost their tags and cannot be identified until they bloom again, which for some plants may take two to three years.

StoGrow sustained some serious damage as well. Many larger vegetables were smashed, and vines were crushed under the weight of the stones. However, many smaller, heartier vegetables took only cosmetic damage.

Campus wildlife also took a beating. Impact craters as deep as three inches are visible in the grassy areas of campus, and many trees lost their leaves.

Professor of Biology John Giannini witnessed some of the destruction first hand: he was watching the hail come down when a flying pigeon was struck.

'We just saw the ball of feathers," he said. "We couldn’t find the bird."

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