Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Prince Hall flood over winter break

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(Collegian File Photo)

The recent severe cold weather led students in Prince Hall at the University of Massachusetts to evacuate their rooms after a pipe broke on Sunday morning.

Approximately 20 students awoke to the fire alarm at around 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 7, and found water pouring into the hallways on all four floors of the building in Southwest Residential Area. Water also leaked down into the center stairwell and into the elevator shaft, according to Deputy Director of Office of News and Media Relations Mary Dettloff.

In an email, Dettloff explained, “Due to severe cold weather, the sprinkler pipes froze in Prince Hall. Sometimes when pipes freeze, they expand and develop cracks. When these particular pipes thawed out, the cracks caused water to leak on four floors of the building.”

An email was sent out later in the morning on Sunday to those currently living in Prince Hall to inform them of “some isolated flooding and the need to shut off the fire protection sprinkler system.”

Assistant Director for East Multi-Year at Berkshire House Julia Mohlala said the hall was temporarily closed until the sprinkler system was reactivated and the students living there during the winter break would be relocated to the hotel in the Campus Center.

“The flooding started on the third floor, which was partially flooded, but also impacted some rooms on the second floor. The first floor, which is the main lobby area with no residential rooms, was also partially flooded, as well as the ground floor,” Dettloff said in an email.

Thomas O’Donoghue, a sophomore engineering major, submitted a video of the flooded hall to the popular Instagram account @Zoomass. The video received over 31,000 views in two days.

O’Donoghue said he woke up to the fire alarms Sunday morning and headed toward the stairs where “water was pouring down the stairs, literally like a waterfall.” He said the residential service director then took down the students’ names and ID numbers so the students could check into the hotel.

About one inch of water was in the hallways of the third floor, according to O’Donoghue. He said the second floor had more water than the third and the first floor had more water than the second. He reported the water in the basement was up to his ankles.

University workers arrived shortly after the alarms went off and shut off the water to the building. Members of the facilities staff inspected every room and photographed the damage. Dettloff said the damage varied from room to room and depended on the items on the floor of the rooms. Wet-vacs were used to clean every room and rugs and carpets were cleaned twice.

Items that were impacted by the water were washed by Residential Life and returned to the students. Students with other damaged items were given the information on how to make a claim for damaged property.

O’Donoghue said he quickly returned to his room to remove his items on his floor, but other students weren’t so lucky and had items damaged.

Christopher Connolly, an undeclared freshman, lives on the third floor of Prince Hall, but was at his house when the incident happened.

“I live pretty close to UMass and I went up [Sunday] afternoon to check out the damage. I had a rug that was ruined because it soaked up a bunch of water and one pair of shoes [ruined].” Connolly said. “Thankfully they said they’ll replace everything that was ruined.”

Connolly said the water was cleaned up by the time he arrived on Sunday; however, the carpets in the hallways were still soaked.

Stephanie Judge, a freshman nutrition major, was living on the fourth floor of Prince for a few days before New Year’s Eve and said the heat wasn’t working.

“Honestly Prince has been a mess all intersession,” Judge said.

Judge was not on campus during the time of the flooding, but was informed by a friend in a group chat. She heard her floor didn’t receive much damage, so she isn’t concerned for her belongings in her room.

As of Monday morning, students were informed they could return to Prince, said Dettloff.

The residential hall in Southwest is one of the nine buildings on campus to provide housing during breaks.

Abigail Charpentier can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @abigailcharp.

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