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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Latest University of Iowa flood news

The following information was announced at the 1 p.m. flood news briefing on Sunday, June 15 (Note: because of technical difficulties, no audio file of the briefing will be available today):

-- UI President Sally Mason announced that the University of Iowa Foundation has established a flood relief fund, thanking alumni and friends who have already offered their support. Additional information is available at [To read a full press release on the fund, go here.]

-- Mason also noted that she has been in contact with the presidents of Iowa State University and the University of Illinois, who have offered their assistance. Don Guckert, UI vice president for facilities management, reported that technical and trades personnel from these schools are already en route to Iowa City.

-- Guckert added that thanks to a tremendous volunteer turnout, the university has completed its planned sandbagging operations. Two million square feet of facilities are threatened by the flood, and half of those have already taken on water. Officials expect the Iowa River to crest within the next couple of days at 1.5 feet above its current level, higher if the area experiences significant rainfall. Guckert noted that temporary dikes around at-risk facilities were built to sustain a 4-foot rise.

-- Utility systems remain the university’s greatest challenge. An underground electrical vault near the campus power plant was taken offline due to flooding, resulting in power outages at several east campus buildings. A pumping operation is under way to restore lost power, and some of the affected facilities or running off emergency generators.

-- Steve Fleagle, associate vice president and chief information officer, reported that the University’s core information technology services, including e-mail, web, phone, human resources systems, and others, are stable and operational. Some services are located in buildings affected by the power outage and are relying on generators.

-- Jean Robillard, vice president for medical affairs, noted that utilities at UI Hospitals and Clinics are stable and that the hospital continues to accept patients. Road closures have created transportation problems for some staff, but UIHC has arranged a shuttle bus from the Cedar Rapids area and airlifts from the Quad Cities to transport essential nursing, laboratory, and medical staff. Low-priority clinic visits set for next week are being rescheduled, but high-priority patients will be seen as scheduled. To avoid congestion in the hospital area, staff arriving from the west can park at the Hawkeye Campus lots west of Mormon Trek Blvd. and catch shuttles to UIHC. So long as the Burlington Street bridge remains open, staff arriving from the east can park at no charge in the Newton Road Parking Ramp.

-- Even after the river crests, flood conditions will persist for several weeks. Mason again thanked the thousands of volunteers that have offered their support, and acknowledged that waiting out the flood can be difficult. She urged the campus community to avoid dangerous floodwaters, remain calm in the face of uncertainty, and remember that the current crisis will pass.