At least $10 million in tornado damage at UW-Platteville campus
PLATTEVILLE (WKOW)-- One week after two tornadoes ripped through the city of Platteville, university officials are still assessing the damage left behind after the storm. According to Grant County Emergency Management, the damage is expected to be well over $10 million on campus.
The damaged buildings include Engineering Hall, the university football stadium and three residence halls. University officials say the three newest residence halls on campus took the brunt of the damage. They were all built after 2005. One of the buildings was built less than a year ago and another was built a year before that. All three buildings have their windows boarded up and their rooms gutted out as construction crews work to get everything ready for the upcoming school year.
"We have reason to be confident that the residence halls and the dining facilities will be ready by August 15th for the return of students," UW-Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields says.
Shields was on a university sponsored trip to China when he heard the devastating news. He was in constant connection with his fellow administrators during the trip, but didn't get back into town until early Tuesday morning. One week after the tornadoes hit he was able to get his first glimpse of the damage to the university.
"We're going to plan for the worst case scenario and hope for the best case," Shields says. "We have every reason to think that we won't have to do anything dramatic."
Construction workers have discovered significant water damage in all four buildings. Officials say the storm damaged the roofs on all four buildings and rain water was able to get inside the walls. Crews have been instructed to check each room for moisture and mold before new construction can begin.
The athletic department is also confident that the football field will be ready to go before the season starts in September. They say both the stadium and bleachers can be salvaged, but the turf field will need to be replaced. They will also need to replace a few stadium lights that were brought down during the storm. One of the lights crashed into the bleachers and caused significant damage to its structure.
The football field is also used by the university's two soccer teams and Platteville High School's football team. Athletic officials are currently searching for alternate sites for home games just in case the field isn't ready for the Fall.
Emergency officials on campus say a disaster response program was recently revamped on campus. Less than two years ago UW-Platteville Police Chief Scott Marquardt decided to create a new training initiative to prepare staff members for the unlikely event of a disaster on campus. The trainings took place every other month, but staff members were working towards a large scale training exercise that was supposed to take place in Spring of 2015.
"The ironic thing is the exercise we've been building towards, the large full scale real time exercise, the scenario was a tornado that struck the university and the city of Platteville at the same time," Marquardt says. "That was the scenario we chose to play out and now it happened for real."
Officials think the recent training is why none of the 150 people on campus were severely hurt. Resident hall directors and coaches were able to evacuate campers who were sleeping in the residence halls during a weekend basketball camp. The children were reunited with their parents and sent home after the storm.
University officials wanted to thank surrounding communities for their support during this difficult time. They were overwhelmed by the number of phone calls and e-mails they received from people offering their support.
Stay tuned to 27 News and wkow.com as we continue to monitor the university's progress.
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