In 1972 Hurricane Agnes was deemed a storm of 100 years, with flood waters cresting in the Susquehanna River at 41 feet. However, a mere 39 years later, a storm producing more damage and higher cresting floodwater hit Northeast Pennsylvania.
On September 9, the Susquehanna River crested at 42.66 feet and is the highest recorded flood level in Wilkes-Barre’s history.
Hundreds of thousands of residents were evacuated to avoid the raging water, including Wilkes University residents, and thousands of local families and businesses have been displaced due to damages.
Mark Allen, dean of student affairs, was very involved in Wilkes’ evacuation process and followed Wilkes-Barre officials’ orders to evacuate by 4 p.m. Thursday.
Students who were unable to traverse to their homes quickly were able to evacuate to the University of Scranton, where students were treated hospitably and were even given passes to use the university’s facilities.
“The decision to evacuate campus was in response to a directive from the city to evacuate,” Allen said. “The University’s leadership met prior to the evacuation notice to discuss class cancellation and plans to relocate students, how to protect the University’s records, equipment and facilities and to coordinate a communication plan to keep the community regularly informed regarding the University’s response to the ongoing crisis.”
The moving of campus equipment was a community effort that included students, staff and faculty. The facilities staff and the football team also helped move equipment to higher ground.
The IT department was quick to put up an emergency bulletin on Wilkes’ website, which was updated frequently to inform students of evacuation procedures, server outages and class cancellations.
“As soon as students were informed of the cancellation of classes for Thursday and Friday, an overwhelming majority chose to go home,” he said.
Approximately 50 students who were unable to go home were evacuated to the University of Scranton and some international students went to hotels, the cost of which was assumed by their governments.
The damage to Wilkes’ campus was minimal, however, there were a few damp basements and some roof leaks. The cancellation of classes on Sept. 12 allowed for faculty to clean up any damage Wilkes ensued.
Local news stations, such as WBRE, covered the flood intensively and the station was live for three days during the flood.
Kyla Campbell and Dave Skutnik averaged the most anchoring each day at 12-16 hours.
Campbell said that they endure the long shifts so they can inform the public of county evacuations, water levels and to share multimedia from social networking sites.
Wilkes-Barre has set up a recovery page for anyone who has endured flood damage. To access the Website, go to http://wbcityrecovery.com.