Hurricane Irene leaves Penn mostly unscathed
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter declared emergency, the first in the city since 1986
August 29, 2011, 4:59 pm · Updated September 9, 2011, 12:05 am·
Alexandra Fleischman | DP
This article was published August 27, 2011 at 10:03 p.m. and updated throughout the storm.
Despite fearsome predictions and precautionary measures, Hurricane Irene left the Penn campus relatively undamaged.
Throughout the weekend, the Division of Public Safety worked with Business Services and Facilities and Real Estate Services to minimize and catalog damage done on campus. According to Facilities and Real Estate Services Vice President Anne Papageorge, the brunt of the damage caused to buildings on campus was in the Quad, with approximately 25 rooms experiencing some leaking.
Other minor damage, Papageorge said, included a fallen tree at College Green and a cracked window at the Richards Medical Research Laboratories located behind the Quad that has since been boarded up.
Meanwhile, the storm also posed a threat to the students planning to move in early. Early move-in and pre-orientation programs were officially postponed to Monday, and measures — including moving students already on campus to their permanent rooms and accommodating housing and dining staff overnight — were taken, according to Douglas Berger, executive director for Business Services. Berger added that 500 students were living on campus during the storm, and an additional 200 moved in on Sunday.
“Our top priority was to make sure students were safe,” said Assistant Director of Operations for Hospitality Services Holly Marrone, who served as co-chair of the move-in committee. “The University was really proactive in planning [the response to the storm] and we used our communications system to ensure all were aware of the situation.”
“This isn’t the first time weather has been a factor for early move-in, but this definitely required advanced planning,” she added. “But the process ran fairly smoothly, and most people came to campus on Monday after the storm.”
In preparation for the storm, DPS formed an Emergency Control Center Friday morning and adjusted police and security levels, Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said. Rush also reported a steep decrease in crime, with no crimes against people and one reported theft. Despite the lack of criminal activity, however, police did have to take some action to secure student safety.
“We had one student running up and down some streets, and it took a bit of corralling to chase him down,” Rush said, adding that the student, who was not placed under arrest, was intoxicated and eventually taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
Following the storm, DPS shifted its focus to closing down flooded roads.
The worst of the Category 1 hurricane affected the Philadelphia area Sunday morning between 4 and 8 a.m. The Schuylkill River crested at about 13.5 feet Sunday afternoon.
Mayor and 1979 Wharton graduate Michael Nutter issued a state of emergency Saturday evening — the first for the city since 1986 — and asked residents to clear the streets. The warning was lifted at noon Sunday.
Many businesses on campus closed early or had plans to close ahead of schedule. City Tap House, at 3925 Walnut St., shut its doors around 7 p.m. Saturday, said Jim Reilly, a bartender. Tap House’s management originally planned to keep the restaurant open and had booked hotel rooms for the employees in the nearby Sheraton Hotel, Reilly said.
The Blarney Stone, at 3929 Sansom St., planned to remain open until 12:30 a.m. Sunday, but had its front door locked and was directing patrons around to the back entrance.
Blarney Stone manager Ryan Kearney said he couldn’t recall a time that the campus watering hole had shut its doors early due to inclement weather, but wanted to keep people off the streets when the worst of the storm hit. The bar is usually open until 2 a.m. Sunday mornings.
Metropolitan Bakery and Hummus restaurant, both near 40th and Walnut streets, had already closed their doors by 7 p.m.
As Hurricane Irene moved up the eastern seaboard, the Philadelphia area braved the storm while surrounding suburbs took the brunt of the impact.
Lauren Plotnick, Calder Silcox, Megan Soisson, Unnati Dass, Victor Gamez and Anjali Tsui contributed reporting to this article.