One year later: U of L remembers summer flood

Louisville, KY - By Matt McCutcheon - e-mail | bio

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - There's the old saying 'what a difference a day makes' but the same can be said for a year, especially on the campus of the University of Louisville.

August 4, 2009 started out like any other typical day on campus, Doctor James Ramsey says, but it quickly changed.

"I had a breakfast meeting at the Cracker Barrel and the sun was coming out.  It was overcast but it was becoming light, but in a few minutes, it was dark again like nighttime," Dr. Ramsey said one year later.

Pouring rain then followed, lasting at least an hour he says.  When Dr. Ramsey and other school officials got to step out of their offices and take a look around, they were shocked at the amount of flooding they saw.

"It was a hard rain - an unprecedented rain - the storm just sat over campus and it rained so hard and so fast that the drainage system couldn't deal with it, so the water just started building up so quickly," he said.

It took its toll all around campus.  Mother Nature caused nearly $21 million worth of damage to nearly 100 campus buildings.

In fact, staffers watched as water rushed into the College of Business, taking an icon inside along for a ride.

"The horse was floating in the basement, just floating in the water," Dr. Ramsey said.

Several hours later, the waters receded and the clean-up began.

"There was this sense of depression - 'how are we going to deal with this' and 'Here we go again', we'd had the hurricane winds from a year earlier, we had the ice storm and both of those had affected the campus and knocked out power," Dr. Ramsey reminisced.

The education building was the last to open - about 3-months after the storm - because of propane that worked its way through the building's ventilation system.

There are no physical reminders of the storm - but it's the campus spirit that Dr. Ramsey says will always be remembered.

"Whatever the challenge - be it 11 budget cuts in 11 years or be it unpredictable weather, this campus is going to pull together," he said.

Only one person was injured on campus, when they slipped and fell and broke their arm.

In a setting known for teaching, leaders actually did the learning as a result of the flood.

Officials have improved backflow preventers in campus drains, installed sump pumps in places where water could build up, creating rain gardens and green roofs, and diverting water from down spouts to an underground aquifer.

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