Millersville University and flooding: what you need to know

Flooding in September 2021 caused by overrun from the pond in front of the Wickersham building. PHOTO COURTESY OF GREGORY BLACK

Nelson Tucker
Staff Writer

There is no end to the many ways in which excess water can cause problems, and Millersville University is not immune to those problems. Whether inconvenient or life-threatening, flooding is not something to be taken lightly. 

The director of Environmental Health and Safety, Paul Hill, is responsible for keeping the campus safe and prepared for both emergencies and disasters. He ensures that they have an up-to-date emergency operations plan, as well as exercises to maintain readiness. 

Dr. Sepideh Yalda, professor of Meteorology and Director of the university’s Center for Disaster Research Education, is involved in that process as well. She also coordinates the academic Emergency Management programs. 

According to Yalda, tropical systems can cause some of the most prolific rainfall totals. Two such events that impacted Lancaster County were Hurricane Agnes in 1972 and Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

Where the flooding manifests on campus, however, is largely shaped by topography and the effectiveness of drainage systems. This falls in the jurisdiction of Gregory Black, the director of maintenance and operations at the Facilities Management Department, which includes Campus Stormwater Management.

“We typically have a few roof leaks that are trouble spots that we are trying to repair. One of these at the Student Memorial Center (SMC) leaves a puddle on the Marauder Courts. We have a contract with a roofing company to come and take the next steps in the repair process. We have been working on this for quite a while now,” Black says. “Another location during heavy rain is the catch basin in front of the Cove at Lyle Hall. When there is heavy rain or a couple of times now when the city water main breaks in the street, water runs down George Street, turns onto Dilworth drive, and overruns that catch basin.”

Yalda says the pond in front of Wickersham is also an issue. The water overran its banks last year during Hurricane Ida and covered nearby walkways. She believes that much of the problem can be mitigated with more natural drainage and improved walkways. 

Beyond maintaining the drainage system, the Facilities Management Department has other tasks to prepare. For example, a large part of this summer was spent restoring failed water lines and cleaning out storm basins. 

Sometimes, more immediate action is necessary. 

“We have to use sandbags at the SMC entrance on the Shenks Lane side,” Black explained. “And we had to place sandbags in the past at the bottom of the access lane down to Osburn. The work we performed this summer hopefully eliminated that problem at Osburn.”

Black also noted another recent improvement. The bus stop near the Caputo building, a spot prone to pooling of water, was fixed this summer. 

Even with these efforts, overall flooding at Millersville University is a real threat that residents have to stay informed on. Yalda stated that students should follow releases from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service. They should stay tuned for more information as Millersville University is currently updating its hazardous weather section, and in future will have detailed advice available to all.