Flooding and Heavy Rains Again Force Campus Closings in the Northeast

September 08, 2011

Barely a week after Hurricane Irene saturated the Middle Atlantic and Northeast, colleges in the region are again facing flooding damage, power outages, and canceled classes caused by heavy rains from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee.

In central and northern Pennsylvania, where many communities along the Susquehanna River were already flooded or warily waiting for the river to crest, institutions began canceling classes as early as Wednesday, urging students to remain in their residence halls or not come to the campus. Continuing rain and road closings forced some campuses there, as well as in New York and Connecticut, to close completely on Thursday.

King's College and Wilkes University, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., evacuated their campuses on Thursday and expected to remain closed through the weekend. Electricity was cut off in downtown Wilkes-Barre and other areas in the flood zone, including the campuses, as a precaution.

Bucknell University, in Lewisburg, Pa., on the Susquehanna's western branch, was relocating students from low-lying residence halls to facilities on higher ground as creeks overflowed on its campus.

"Our utmost concern is the safety of our students, faculty, and staff," said John Bravman, Bucknell's president. "This is a serious flood situation, and it is impacting the lives of students, faculty, and staff."

Farther north, in New York, Binghamton University canceled classes for Thursday and Friday, and more than 1,000 evacuees from the region were crowded into emergency shelters set up on the campus. More than 20,000 people had to evacuate homes in the county surrounding Binghamton. "The situation is dire," the city's mayor, Matt Ryan, told the Associated Press, describing it as the worst flooding in the area since the 1940s.

Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., closed at 5 a.m. Thursday after the sheriff ordered all roads closed in Tompkins County. No serious flooding has been reported on the campus, although university officials cautioned students to stay away from the nearby gorges.

Connecticut was also experiencing flooding, prompting the University of Connecticut's Greater Hartford campus to close on Thursday, though classes were expected to resume on Friday. At the University of Hartford, a flash flood swept across a parking lot, damaging dozens of cars. A notice on the university's Web site advised of road closings on or near the campus and suggested alternate routes, but it made no mention of canceling classes.