University Weathers Record-Breaking Rainfall

Flooding of the North Branch Chicago River

CHICAGO, IL (September 14, 2008) – Nearly seven inches of rain fell within 24 hours over the weekend, sending the North Branch of the Chicago River over its bank and forcing North Park University to evacuate two of its dormitories, Anderson and Burgh Halls. Water stood several feet high in the Anderson parking lot on Sunday night after the worst rainfall Chicago has seen in at least 137 years.

Relocation was necessary when water began to cover the electrical transformers that are next to Anderson and regulate power to that dorm as well as Burgh and Magnuson Center, President David Parkyn explained in an email to students and a through a message on the school’s Web site.

Evacuated students slept at friends’ homes over the weekend, or at the Helwig Center, which was opened to accommodate those who could not find other shelter. Students were allowed to return to their rooms and spend the night in them on Monday.

Because the cafeteria is located in Magnuson, ARA served meals in Hamming Hall to students with meal plans. The food service company brought the meals from Northwestern University, which it also serves.

Parkyn updated students Sunday night at the beginning of the regular collegelife worship service, when he announced that classes would be canceled on Monday. He also told students they might be called on to volunteer to help others in the Albany Park community, which was hardest hit by the rains.

The work began on Saturday night, when many students helped city crews place sandbags by the river that runs through the south portion of the campus. Some even brought sandwiches to the workers.

Students said Sunday night they were adapting to the displacement. “People were frustrated at first, but they’re starting to get used to it,” said Colin Lindstedt, a freshman from Cottage Grove, Minnesota, who lives on the top floor of Burgh. A number of students assisted each other by grabbing items for roommates who were not at the dorms.

Freshman Mariam Ukbazghi of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, had been shopping all day Saturday and returned that evening to learn that she couldn’t enter her dorm room in Anderson Hall. “I saw the water overflowing, and the trash cans were floating,” said Ukbazghi, who had been staying with her sister near campus.

The school allowed students to briefly return to Burgh and Anderson on Sunday afternoon to retrieve personal items.

Lindstedt praised the school for keeping the students constantly informed through emails and postings on the Web site, and President Parkyn thanked all of the University departments who responded to the crisis quickly and efficiently.

“We are grateful for the diligent work of our physical plant, campus security, and residence life departments, as well as all of our institutional partners and the City of Chicago,” Parkyn said. “I am very pleased with the ways North Park is handling the challenges this flooding has produced on our campus and in our community.”

Additional outreach efforts are being planned through University Ministries, which continues to assess damage on campus and in the surrounding area. The office is currently coordinating groups of students to offer support and assistance where needed, and to help with cleanup efforts in the neighborhood.

For photos of the flooding, see our slideshow here. (Click "info on" at the top of the page to view each description.)