Around 5 a.m., on Jan. 9, Vol Hall residents were evacuated after fire alarms sounded. See what students had to say: bit.ly/KFWTd1
The temperatures may be rising, but UT isn't out of the cold yet.
Mechanical issues associated with some of the coldest temperatures in years have emerged across campus, leaving Housing Facilities to scramble to clean up the mess. According to a Thursday UT News press release, several academic buildings and residence halls were affected, although the plumbing and heating problems have not necessitated the displacement of classes or residents.
Buildings currently experiencing difficulties include: South Carrick Hall, Morrill Hall, Massey Hall, Reese Hall, Hess Hall, Volunteer Hall, Art and Architecture, Dougherty Engineering, Bailey Education Complex and Food Science and Technology.
Vol Hall resident Lindsay Lee, a senior in mathematics, was personally affected by the building's mishap when a pipe burst early Wednesday morning triggering the hall's fire alarm.
"As a wheelchair user, I had to get my roommate to help me get out of bed, which takes time and is massively inconvenient," Lee said. "But probably the most frustrating part is that as soon as we were away from the building, everyone was called back in. It was like it was all for nothing."
Thursday's press release stated that crews have been working since Sunday to deal with the continuing aftermath of the passing polar vortex.
In addition to university crews, an emergency cleanup contractor has been enlisted to repair the widespread issues.
Although plummeting temperatures were forecast before the weekend, Lee said she was surprised by the sudden plumbing complications caused by the weather.
"I have no idea what sort of preparation was done or what could have been done," Lee said. "When we were rudely awoken early this morning we were all griping, 'They should have known!' But of course we have no idea what we are talking about."
Katherine Cahill, another Vol Hall resident, said she believes students should be more informed on possible residential problems.
"I don't know what's being done now, but I believe that Volunteer Hall should have sent out an email to its residents alerting them to the issues going on and discussing what's being done to resolve them," Cahill said. "I know a lot of people are unhappy about the situation, and we all deserve to know what's going on with our building."
Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Service Dave Irvin addressed local media on Thursday to comment on the extent of the crisis, saying the current damage estimates are at $250,000.
"We've had 165 people working overtime, non-stop since Sunday," Irvin said. "Many of those folks, in fact, have not gone home since Sunday. They've slept in the buildings they're trying to maintain for a few hours, and then woken up and gone right back at work."
In order to make sure academic buildings were ready for the first day of classes on Wednesday, Irvin said maintenance workers were stationed at critical points around campus to decrease response time to sudden problems.
In addition, some Greek housing facilities are dealing with plumbing and electrical mishaps. A pipe burst in the Kappa Kappa Gamma house, causing water damage in at least three rooms of the building. Members of fraternities Alpha Tau Omega and Sigma Alpha Epsilon are being offered housing due to electrical issues caused by the cold weather.
Irvin stated the majority of damage was found in campus sporting facilities, where many plumbing and sprinkler systems are exposed to the elements. Neyland Stadium, in particular, suffered damage to fire suppression sprinkler systems, causing damage in both press boxes.
This is the first time in 25 years UT has dealt with mechanical issues on this scale associated with freezing temperatures. In Irvin's opinion, Facilities Services prepared for the deep freeze to the best of its abilities.
"Certainly after any major event, you sort of do a post-event analysis," Irvin said "We're certainly going to be doing that next week, and we'll be sitting down with our colleagues in athletics and housing to see not only what could we do differently, but what might we do going forward and how do make some corrections."
Irvin said UT hopes to have order restored by Monday, Jan. 13.