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Office of Internal Communications

Houston, TX 77204-5017 Fax: 713.743.8196
July 1, 2004

(also see related story)

When Tropical Storm Allison barreled across the city three years ago, it caused more than $100 million in damages to the University of Houston.

Today, UH would sustain significantly less water damage if another major tropical storm or hurricane were to strike the metropolitan area.

University administrators say UH is now better prepared to cope with major flooding and other related emergencies, thanks to lessons learned from Allison.

“In a lot of ways, the campus has healed from Tropical Storm Allison, but there are some issues that are still being resolved,” said Dennis Fouty, associate vice president for computing and telecommunication services, one of many administrators who worked on the campus recovery in the storm’s aftermath.

Dave Irvin, associate vice president for plant operations, agreed.

“We’ve done numerous things since Allison to ensure that we would be significantly better equipped to handle any flooding problems or other related emergencies,” Irvin said.

Irvin added that one of the most significant changes was the decision not to build basements or storage facilities underground.

From June 5 to June 9, 2001, Tropical Storm Allison dumped 37 inches of rain on the city.

The storm caused nearly $5 billion in damages in Harris County. At UH, more than 90 of 105 buildings were damaged, forcing administrators to close the campus.

Emergency Management Plan
Communication/Information Process

The University of Houston president or his designee is the only person authorized to close the university.

Once the decision is made, UH faculty, staff and students will be notified as quickly as possible through:

• Electronic mail
• UH home page at www.uh.edu
• UH Today Web site www.uh.edu/uhtoday
• UH OnCall (713) 743-2255
• Switchboard (713) 743-1000
• Voice mail

KUHT-TV (Channel 8) and KUHF-FM (88.7 FM) have agreed to air emergency
information as soon as possible.
Area television stations, including Channels 2, 11, 13, 26 and 45, will be notified.

Local radio stations, including KLTN
(FM 102.9) and KTRH (AM 740), also will be notified.

For more information, visit the Emergency Information Resource Guide at www.uh.edu/emergency/.

The electrical and phone systems were severely damaged in nearly every building. Water rose as high as 10 to 12 feet in the Law Center, the Fine Arts Building, Wortham Theatre, the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, Moody Towers and the University Center Satellite (UC Satellite). The university opened for classes on June 18, but the campus recovery continued for more than two years.

The university spent more than $100 million — including Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, insurance, private donations and university regular and deferred maintenance funds — on the recovery. UH invested nearly $6 million in mitigation, emphasizing flood prevention, especially for buildings hard hit by the storm, according to Irvin.

“We’ve done everything from installing doors that will withstand the force of water at the entrances of tunnels to installing floodgates at specific sites across campus,” Irvin said.

The university also has determined what buildings might flood first, which has helped administrators develop a prevention and evacuation plan.

“Our biggest concern is human safety,” said UH Police Chief Bob Wilson. “As a result of Allison, we know which buildings tend to flood first, so those buildings will be the first to be evacuated if necessary.”

Wilson noted that the Law Center’s lower level and the UC Satellite are two of the buildings that flooded early and quickly.

“Although we can never be fully and completely disaster-free, Tropical Storm Allison has provided the university with a wealth of experience that we have all learned from,” Wilson said.

“The result is that we are far better prepared for an emergency today than we were three years ago.”

In addition to the evacuation plan and equipment upgrades, university administrators also focused their attention on developing a permanent emergency management committee to develop policies and procedures for the future.

“Many of us who coordinated recovery efforts after the storm were determined to continue communicating with each other on these and other emergency-related issues,” said Fouty, who is a committee member. “We wanted to maintain a close working relationship.”

Francine Parker