Storms Strike Southern CA

<strong>ALEX YEE | Photography Intern</strong><br/>A fallen tree in Aldrich Park serves as a souvenir of the harsh winds and flooding from last week’s storm.

ALEX YEE | Photography InternA fallen tree in Aldrich Park serves as a souvenir of the harsh winds and flooding from last week’s storm.

A tornado warning was issued to southeastern Orange County last Tuesday, Jan. 19. A ZotAlert was issued to UC Irvine students around 1:30 p.m., warning them of the tornado which was predicted to be “6 miles northwest of Irvine by 1:30 p.m.,” but within a half-hour, sent another ZotAlert canceling the warning.

The tornado did not hit Irvine, but mild flooding occurred on the UCI campus, revealing some structural problems in a few buildings on campus.

Over 200 calls were made to Facilities Management Services last week to try to repair leaks in buildings, address vehicle damage and remove fallen tree rims. Also, several buildings including the Bren Events Center and the bookstore needed to have sandbags placed near the steps in order to prevent flooding.

According to Marc Gomez, Interim Assistant Vice Chancellor of Environmental Health and Safety and Facilities Management, the service desk in his department, which fields three people to answer phone calls, received around 500 calls last week with complaints regarding the rain.

“It does not rain a lot in Southern California,” Gomez said. “So when we get a lot of rain, it exposes a lot of roof leaks that happen over the year. It is normal wear and tear, but it is several years’ worth of wear being seen over a few days.”

With the damages done on the UCI campus, a lot of repairs will need to be made in the upcoming months — repairs that will cost the school even more money.

While insurance will definitely help cover some of the cost, operational funds will be necessary to cover the wear and tear.

Other areas faced more severe ramifications from the storm. The Los Angeles Times reported that Cal State Long Beach cancelled classes for two days because of flooding in the Student Union Building and the I-710 freeway was flooded twice.

Despite the fairly severe damages in Southern California, many students joked about the tornado warning and storm hype.

A Facebook group was created called, “I survived the 2010 LA/OC Tornado,” and within days, gained over 17,000 members.

Discussions on the group’s profile developed as many people shared their experiences, from high school students having classes cancelled or ending early to people being unable to get on the freeway.

According to the creator of the group, second-year Chinese major Ryan Bosia, when the wind was particularly strong, a large pine tree in Campus Village Housing fell and totaled three of the cars next to his.

“People were not in real danger,” Sharon Aviles, an undeclared second-year and one of the group’s officers said. “Some people actually did take it seriously; they did not get the sarcasm. One girl from University High School asked Elizabeth Yuen, who is listed on the Facebook group as the ‘Head of Fundraising,’ for donations for a car wash she was holding. It was crazy!”

Although a lot of the hype was exaggerated, Gomez emphasized the importance of the unity and efficiency of the campus staff during the storm.

“I think the campus did a nice job of alerting facilities and others of problems that occurred so we can respond,” Gomez said. “A lot of work was done last week, preplanning, pre-trimming and sandbagging. If we had avoided things, they could have been much worse.”