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Christopher Sheid

Last modified: Thursday, May 17, 2007

IU Northwest weathers storm with minor property damage

May 17, 2007

IUN Bent Clock

A storm with high winds and heavy rain caused minor damage on the IU Northwest campus on May 14. The winds were strong enough to bend the hand on this clock almost backward.

GARY, Ind. -- The Indiana University Northwest campus sustained relatively minor property damage and no serious injuries during a May 15 storm that ripped through the area with high winds and heavy rain, according to university officials. But the scenic university grounds will seem a bit less shady this summer, after the fierce winds damaged or completely uprooted 35 trees across campus.

The storm, one of a series of violent weather events that swept across Northwest Indiana during mid-afternoon that day, drenched the IU Northwest campus with rain and left sidewalks and roadways littered with branches and toppled trees.

A picnic table located between Lindenwood and Sycamore Halls was relocated about 35 feet from its concrete berth and deposited next to 35th Avenue. Power in those two buildings, and in the IU Northwest Child Care Center, also located on 35th Avenue, was lost during the storm and remained down for the next 20 hours.

There were no serious injuries attributed to the storm, although the IU Northwest Police Department did report that three people -- two of them IU Northwest staff members -- suffered minor injuries due to wind or falling trees or branches. One staff member was blown into a fence by the wind; another was struck by a falling tree as he exited a building. The third injury involved a student who was hit by wind-blown branches.

Six vehicles reportedly sustained some damage during the storm, including one that was struck by a falling 20-foot light pole. Falling trees and branches accounted for the other damaged vehicles.

IUN Fallen Tree

Winds also uprooted a number of large trees, including a 30-year-old blue spruce.

Other property damage was scattered across campus: Two rooftop air-conditioning units at the Library Conference Center and one at Raintree Hall were hit with wind damage; the library's rubber roof was torn by wind; an entryway ceiling in Raintree sustained damage; a single office in the Division of University Advancement, housed in Sycamore Hall, also suffered some ceiling damage; and one hand of a large metal clock mounted on the upper reaches of Hawthorn Hall was bent almost completely backward. Despite the forceful gale, however, only two windows in buildings across campus were broken or blown out.

Otto Jefimenko, director of IU Northwest Physical Plant, said IU officials from Bloomington would visit IU Northwest this week to assess the damage. So far, no estimates of dollar value for the damage have been established.

By far, the most visible signs of storm damage on campus were the toppled trees, most of which were located in the heart of the university grounds. The victims included several large evergreens — including a 30-year-old blue spruce -- situated north of the Library Conference Center, and a number of trees located in the vicinity of Raintree Hall. Many of these trees, some 20 feet or higher, literally were uprooted from the ground. Other affected species included white pine, green ash, ornamental pear, and Washington hawthorn trees, along with a 20-inch-diameter oak tree that was yanked almost completely from the ground by wind.

"It will take years to replace the trees that were lost in just a matter of minutes," said Michelle Searer, director of the IU Northwest Office of Marketing and Communications. "The landscape of the campus has been visibly altered.

"We take great pride at IU Northwest in the aesthetic appeal of our campus grounds, and those trees were definitely a big part of that. But we can always plant more trees. The important thing is that no one was seriously hurt. And the damage to property certainly could have been worse, considering the intensity of this storm," Searer said.

Despite the storm, summer classes at IU Northwest continued unabated on May 15 and May 16. Lindenwood and Sycamore are both administrative buildings, and so classes were not inconvenienced. Power was restored to those affected buildings around 11 a.m. on May 16.