BY AVA BLUM-CARR ’21
Torrential rains last Monday caused flooding on the bottom floor of Blanchard Hall, surprising students but causing no serious damage.
Bobbie Green ’19 was doing work in Blanch’s upstairs when a friend alerted her of flooding on the ground floor. “At first I didn’t think it was a big deal and figured there was just a little bit of water on the floor, but we all decided we should probably leave because it was raining pretty hard and didn’t seem like it was going to get better,” said Green.
What she saw at the bottom of the stairs surprised her. “We were walking downstairs to leave and saw pretty clearly that there was a significant amount of water spread across Blanch, all the way to the stairs,” said Green.
Kayla Ryan ’19 said she saw the water stretching from the doors of the Great Room to just past the condiments section near the café.
“It also spread out from booths and tables right outside the Great Room all the way to the side door where the Bank of America ATM is,” said Ryan. “It looked muddy and there was about an inch of water, maybe two at the deepest point.”
According to Green, dining hall staff soon began to clean up the mess. Because it was late at night and raining heavily, not many students were around to witness the event. “The five to ten people that were there were all looking and taking pictures of the flood,” said Green.
Richard Bigelow, Associate Director and Chief Engineer of Facilities Management, explained that the flooding was caused by two factors. Firstly, a mass of fallen leaves had blocked a drain that normally would have diverted rainwater running off the roof of Blanchard. Secondly, Blanchard’s “silt socks,” filtration systems inside catch basins that all construction sites are required to have, were not working properly.
“The rain was so excessive that the silt socks all filled with sediment and were not able to function normally. As a result, water that would have been drained away flowed toward Blanchard and ran under a door onto the floor on the lowest level,” said Bigelow. Normally, silt socks are supposed to trap the sediment while draining water runoff.
“I’d say most people were just kind of surprised by the flooding, especially because Blanch is one of the newer buildings on campus, but I was pretty excited about it,” said Green. “It’s nice to see Blanch transform over the years — at first it was used as a gym, then the student commons, then Superblanch, and now a pool! Good to see Mount Holyoke remembering the importance of our athletic education.”