By Cameron Meyn, Jillian LaPalme, Julian Szuper, Joshua Sikarevich, Kristen Wilson,
Rafael Posvar, Sydney Nocerino and Barbara Kay
Purchase College got socked with the remnants of Hurricane Ida, which flash-flooded campus parking lots, residence halls and academic buildings and left “substantial water damage” in its wake, campus officials said.
“The damage is a result of the overwhelming quantity of rainfall in a relatively short period of time,” said Michael Kopas, senior director of Facilities and Capital Planning. “We do not have a dollar assessment yet.”
The wild storm, which dropped 6.16 inches of rain at Westchester Airport according to the National Weather Service, hobbled the start of a semester already complicated by COVID-19 concerns. Declaring the storm “a threat to public health and safety,” Gov. Kathy Hochul issued a state of emergency, which will expedite funding to hard-hit areas of the state.
Two apartments in the Olde were flooded, forcing a relocation of several student residents. Video posted on social media showed students sloshing in knee-deep water outside their G9-1 apartment. Inside, water appeared to reach their ankles.
Arcadio Lozano, a resident assistant, said of the storm, “It was quite a ride to say the least. It was hectic. I received over 20 calls to the on-duty phone…It was hard to stay calm.” Lozano applauded the efforts of students and residence coordinators who relocated the residents and outfitted them with fresh sheets, bedding, pillows and additional clothes.
“We are safe and dry now,” affected resident Julia Pelletier posted on the Purchase Open Forum later Wednesday night. “Thank you to everyone who helped get our valuables out safely.”
By Thursday morning, residents were drying their belongings in their front yard with help from campus staff.
Around 10:15 p.m. on Wednesday, student Alex Belyaninov posted a video of water raining into the music building from the ceiling near an exit.
Julia Guyon posted, “Word on the street is that Purchase is now an underwater utopia.”
Another student, Robert Cornal, baptized the school as “SUNY Atlantis” in a Facebook comment.
In the Central 4 and 5 parking lots between the Olde and the Dance Building, floodwater damaged more than a dozen cars. Some students watched in awe, while others worried about their vehicles and belongings.
“What the fuck? Now all my shit’s wet,” said Devin Tetlak, an Alumni Village resident who was shocked when he saw his car window had been left open a crack. “To be honest, I’m just going to let [the car] dry and chill.”
One soaked student returned to her dorm balcony after attempting to rescue her car in the Central 4 parking lot. The 20-year-old art major told a reporter that she had to swim to her vehicle, which was more than halfway submerged in water. The car, she said, was “done,” and she was left reeling about how much vehicle damage her insurance would cover.
Kopas estimated that “10-15 cars may have been impacted in the lot,” but noted that the University Police Department would have more details. UPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Other lots were also damaged.
“The parking lot and yard at Facilities also sustained significant damage when the brook overran its banks and rerouted itself across our parking and exterior shop areas,” Kopas said.
“I know there were a couple of ceiling leaks in Music and CMFT [the Center for Media, Film and Theatre], but they were minor,” Kopas added. “We are still assessing the campus so there may be some other issues that pop up.”
The campus apparently did not lose power, though the storm left more than 17,000 Westchester residents without power. Con Edison spokeswoman Alina Suriel, a Purchase journalism major who graduated in 2014, warned students to avoid down power lines on the roads around campus.
“If you see downed electrical wires, do not go near them,” she said. “Report them to Con Edison and your local police department immediately. Treat all downed wires as if they are live. Never attempt to move them or touch them with your hands or any object. Be mindful that downed wires can be hidden from view by tree limbs, leaves or water.”
The damage from Ida left sections of the Sprain Brook Parkway, Bronx River Parkway, Major Deegan and I-287 closed due to flooding. Following the storm, a number of faculty switched their in-person classes to Zoom to avoid a perilous commute.
Luca Esposito, a junior new media major, had a harrowing drive to campus Thursday morning.
“There were puddles everywhere and rocks that were swept onto the road kept hitting the car,” he said.
After noting that a car had burst into flames in a campus lot on Monday, senior arts management major Mikelis Grendze posted on the Open Forum, “This week is the #purchpocalypse.”
Snapchat video of a car in East 4 catching on fire (Video via Hayley Peck)