On Nov. 5, severe weather hit Millcreek Township and the City of Erie, damaging buildings, tearing down trees and costing two local men their lives.
Beginning at 6 p.m., the area began experiencing heavy rainfall — totaling 3 inches in just over an hour — and winds up to 90 miles per hour. This gave way to a tornado that touched down near Sterrettania Road, intensified towards Interstate 79 and eventually came to an end near Greengarden Boulevard.
The speed and severity of the storm caused city drains to be overfilled, leading to backups in the system and the eventual flooding of several homes and businesses. One Erie home was hit so severely that two men drowned in the 8 feet of water found in their house.
Effects on the Mercyhurst University campus were much less severe and were limited to minor building damage.
“Just about every building on campus was affected in some form or another,” said director of facilities Thomas Fabrizio. “However, our campus fared extremely well considering the magnitude of the storm.”
Zurn Hall and the Audrey Hirt Academic Center were the two academic buildings to experience the most damage. Residential buildings that were hit especially hard include 3525 Lewis, 3523 Lewis, 3830 Lewis and 3924 Briggs.
Students most commonly reported wet carpets, flooded hallways and a subsequent foul odor. Sophomore dance major Emily Black was among Lewis residents to experience such damages.
“I got back from rehearsal and I was nervous that our apartment would be flooded because we live on the bottom floor, but when I got back everything looked fine until I walked into my bedroom,” said Black. “The carpet was soaked through with water like it had come up through the floor.”
University employees responded to students quickly and helped students who were in need of alternative housing.
“Residence Life staff worked with students in the harder-hit buildings to relocate them quickly to dry accommodations in Baldwin and McAuley Halls,” said Megan McKenna, director of residence life and student conduct. “Some students decided to stay in their current apartments if they felt comfortable; some students stayed with friends that night and then were relocated on Monday.”
With the goal of getting all relocated students back into their apartments by Nov. 10, cleaning and reparative efforts began the following morning.
Aramark, the company that is responsible for Mercyhurst facilities, worked alongside ServiceMaster and Mammoth Restoration companies to dry out, sanitize and replace carpeting in affected areas. High-power dryers and heaters were also used to speed up the process.
Cleanup efforts were quick and successful due to the cooperation of students with their resident assistants as well as facilities and residence life employees.
“The students that we have been communicating with were very helpful and cooperative during this process which is more than helpful,” said McKenna. “This is not ideal for anyone and we know that this can be a frustrating process especially to be relocated and out of your home, so to speak, so I do appreciate how cooperative everyone has been.”
Black shared similar sentiments and said she is thankful for the help that she received.
“The school was really helpful,” said Black. After we reported it, they got someone to remove the water just a couple hours later. We are back to normal now, thankfully.”