When Superstorm Sandy hit the Eastern seaboard on Oct. 29, many people found their lives uprooted by the massive damage the heavy rain and wind left behind. Those who remained on campus were most affected by fallen trees and loss of power in some buildings.
Vice President of Public Safety Thomas Lawrence said the University was prepared for the storm.
He said conference calls were held with top University officials in the days leading up to the storm to update everyone on the latest forecast and their internal plan.
Lawrence said he stayed at the school for the duration of the storm and into the afternoon the day after.
“There was just a lot of wind, but not that much rain,” he said. “We’re high enough where there weren’t issues with flooding.”
Experiences varied on campus. Junior Elaine Abou-Assi said her townhouse windows shook during the storm, her door flew open from the wind and power was lost.
But sophomore Kim Javal, a resident of Century Hall, said her suite did not lose power and said she felt “bored” during the storm.
Last week the University said the storm damage included: two oak trees falling on the Great Lawn and an off campus tree pulling down on a power line near Gate 6, causing outages to St. Albert’s and St. Vincent’s Hall.
Lawrence said the two buildings were still currently running on a generator. Lawrence said power restoration to the two buildings depends on Con Ed now; he can only hope it comes back sometime soon.
When it came to closing school, Lawrence said public safety informs the University community through text messages, phone calls and emails, but his unit is not solely responsible for deciding whether or not classes are held. Lawrence said public safety makes recommendations to the administration, which has the final say.
One of the main reasons why classes remained off throughout the week was power outages on campus, Lawrence said. “We can’t have classes when the hallways and the stairways are dark,” he said. “A lot of the buildings had either complete or partial outages.”
The University said last week in a press release that six generators were used to provide power to those parts of campus that were affected.
Although Lawrence believes in retrospect that the University was as prepared as well as it could have been with the storm, he said several unexpected factors made things more difficult in the days following Sandy.
“We were in good shape,” he said. “We had a plan and put it in effect. We were able to save some research that was going on in the labs [St. Albert’s Hall].”
Abou-Assi, the junior whose townhouse windows shook throughout the storm, added, “We were all really thankful that St. John’s was more safe than we expected.”
Lawrence said in his 10 years at working at St. John’s, and previously working for the NYPD for 23 years, the aftermath of Sandy was unprecedented.
The east coast got another dose of abnormal weather when winter storm Athena, a Nor’easter, which left behind several inches of snow.
Lawrence said he placed a call to a meteorologist to see how much snow was to be expected to gauge whether school should be cancelled, but said in the end more fell then was expected.
“What we got,” he said, “wasn’t what I was told we’d get.”