Cold temperatures, flooding lead to hectic day for UConn Facilities staff

In this photo, the UConn Student Recreational Facility, also known as the Rec Center, is pictured. (Jackson Haigis/The Daily Campus)

Updated at 7:54 p.m.

Monday was a busy day for UConn Facilities. In the morning, frozen water pipes forced the recreation center to turn away gym-goers, and in the evening, water cascaded down a staircase at Buckley Residence Hall. In between, students complained of cold classrooms.

Pipe bursts happen when temperatures warm up, after the ice begins to thaw, said facilities manager Aris Ristau.

Sunday’s record-breaking icy temperatures explain Monday’s facility concerns. While temperatures remained below freezing throughout the day, it was Sunday that broke the coldest documented temperature in Hartford since 1996: minus 12 degrees.

“Usually when there are extreme temperatures Facilities Operations and Building Services does quite a bit to prepare,” Ristau said. “We plan accordingly by adding additional technicians—HVAC, Plumbing, Housekeeping, etc.—as necessary to address any concerns as they come up.”

The concerns began to come up mid-morning Monday. Students and faculty using the recreation center were asked to leave at approximately 10:45 a.m., and a campus-wide email was sent regarding the center’s lack of heat a half hour later.

By 5 p.m., the recreation center reopened and maintained regular hours.

But, just 30 minutes later, students on Yik Yak began reporting mini waterfalls in a Buckley staircase and the lobby flooded.

Students were alerted of the situation via the fire alarm and evacuated.

“About 20 to 25 minutes after we left the building, they let us back in, and the entire floor of the lobby was filled with water,” said second-semester undecided major Georgia Ionescu, “there were pieces of ceiling laying in the middle of the puddle, and it smelled like gas.”

The Buckley dining hall was reopened after students were let back into the building. The dining hall is on a separate level from where the lobby flooded.

Throughout the day, there were more minor heat-related issues in several other buildings too.

A120 in the Chemistry Building was abnormally frigid in the morning during an Organic Chemistry lecture, said sixth-semester animal science and pathobiology student Victoria Donroe. Classes in the Philip E. Austin Building and Benjamin Franklin Koons Hall were also cold, according to fourth-semester communication and journalism student Laura Gelb.

Aside from the recreation center and Buckley’s brief closure, all buildings were kept open all day, said university spokesman Tom Breen.


Annie Pancak is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at annie.pancak@uconn.edu. She tweets @APancak.