Monday, March 2, 2015
What a difference a week makes! Just one week ago, a substantial portion of our Cherry Road campus was flooded, causing significant damage to our auditorium, counseling offices, classrooms, and hallways. Since that time, life at Harding has continued in strong and courageous ways. We hosted sub-state basketball games and sent both our boys and girls teams to the state tournament; we had all of our students back into their lockers and regular classrooms by Tuesday morning; we performed Jungle Book; we hosted Longing for Glory concert; and, without missing a beat, we continued to focus what we do best: teaching, learning, and taking care of young people.
In the midst of our frustration and disappointment, our successes and victories, we have been continually reminded of two important things: (1) The greatest strengths of our school are our God and our people, NOT our stuff; and (2) God's redemption and restoration of our messes are real and powerful.
The purpose of this letter is threefold:
1. To share with you the causes of this particular event as we understand them
2. To inform you of our efforts to address the damages caused and thank those who have so faithfully served our school in these difficult days
3. To outline our plans to address our ongoing issues relative to flooding. It is important to us to keep you updated knowing that you have many questions about our efforts to address this ongoing challenge.
Although we have substantial engineering tests and studies still in process, it appears that this most recent flood event was caused primarily by a blockage of an underground drainage pipe. The ditch on the northwest side of our campus along Cherry Road, drains into a 72" pipe that runs under our property, then drains into a city ditch south of our tennis courts and baseball field.
On Monday Mr. David Cobb, a Harding parent and owner of Cobb Plumbing, and his employees, attempted to flush the pipe, shot digital images, physically entered the pipe from each end, and ultimately discovered a 26" (diameter) log lodged in the pipe that had created a dam that would not allow leaves, wood, grass, and other debris to pass through, resulting in a 10-15' section of the pipe that was completely clogged. It is impossible to determine how long this blockage had been there; however we know that the pipe had been inspected within the past year.
Having discovered that a variety of debris, including blocks of concrete, were in the ditch, we are scheduling more stringent and frequent maintenance inspections of both the ditch and the pipe. The amount of rain and runoff from recent snow and ice and the saturated and frozen ground contributed to the most recent flood. Those issues, along with a completely clogged pipe, and our ongoing water retention issues, created the perfect storm for this most recent event.
In contrast, while the resulting damage from the July 2014 flood is similar, the cause of that flood appears to be related to unusually high volume of rainfall over a relatively short period of time. The deluge and ensuing run-off from our own campus and from city- and privately-owned property north of our campus overwhelmed the capacity of our drainage systems.
What Steps Did We Take Last Weekend?
When water levels began to rise in his own neighborhood last Saturday morning, Mr. Stan Hendrix went to check the school grounds and facilities. He was the first on the scene and notified me of the flooding. After contacting Sharp, Robbins, & Popwell, he summoned the Harding maintenance staff to come to work. Sharp, Robbins, & Popwell had a full crew on site within the hour and immediately began efforts to deal with the water. Their rapid response allowed reduction of the scope of the damage in the auditorium. Hundreds of seat cushions were removed before the water ever touched them, and the new stage curtains were saved.
Additional staff, administration, and friends of Harding came to help and worked throughout the day and into the evening. Our architect, Mr. Ben Witt, and a civil engineer, Mr. Roy Lamic, were called to campus to observe the water flow and retention issues firsthand. Cobb Plumbing was called to assist, as well, and responded immediately. Throughout the night Saturday into Sunday, an estimated 400,000 gallons of water were pumped from the auditorium and junior high courtyard. As soon as all the water had been removed, the Sharp, Robbins, & Popwell crew began the mitigation process, including arranging for a specialized mitigation team from Atlanta to arrive on Monday.. We were amazed that our students and teachers were able to be back in their classrooms by Tuesday.
We cannot adequately thank Sharp, Robbins & Popwell, Cobb Plumbing, and our own facilities crew for their incredible efforts. They have been very generous to the school with their time and resources, I really do not know how we could have dealt with the flooding without them. We have been blessed by the assistance of professionals who specialize in this kind of mitigation, and we are very glad to have so many Harding friends were willing to help.
What Are The Plans To Address Future Flooding Issues?
Although the obstruction in the pipe was identified and cleared by mid-week we have obvious and substantial engineering and water retention issues left to address. Even with our excellent insurance coverage, there are limits to what is covered. The costs associated with deductibles, mitigation, and relocation of events are significant. In addition, ongoing professional services are required to assess and implement solutions for future flooding issues. We must also consult with civil engineers, architects, and city officials to determine the most efficient and cost effective solutions. These professional consultations and services, while necessary, are also expensive.
We had already reassessed each phase of our Steadfast campaign to focus on projects that will allow us effectively and efficiently to address our water retention issues on our property along Cherry Road east of the drainage ditch and on our playing fields located above the underground drainage pipe. Each of our Steadfast projects now includes an increased budget to address drainage and water retention capacity.
Please help us to recover from these most recent flood events and to address future flooding issues responsibly by actively participating in this campaign, both by giving yourself and by asking others to do the same. It is essential that these increased costs do not limit our ability to move forward with our summer projects as planned.
Thank you for your patience, prayers, and encouragement as we continue to deal with this situation. We ask that you please continue to pray for Harding Academy and that you support our efforts to mitigate future flooding issues effectively and responsibly by giving to the Steadfast campaign.