An inch and a half of hot water flooded three Dupre dorms in the early morning of Saturday, March 2 after a pipe failure caused a radiator in one of the affected rooms to burst its cap.
While no one was seriously injured, six affected students have been given temporary emergency housing and will be compensated for damaged belongings. “The cause of this particular leak is not completely clear,” Assistant Vice President of Facilities Services Nathan Lief wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly.
“Generally, when a pipe begins to leak in a residence hall, the cause can be attributed to age (wear and tear), physical damage (being bumped, stood on, etc.) or freezing, which tends to occur when a window is left open in cold weather,” he wrote.
Matt Glover ’22*, who lives in the second-floor Dupre triple where the malfunction occurred, awoke at 4:30 a.m. to the sound of fire alarms. Steam had flooded his room, and when he stepped out of his bed, he stepped into over an inch of dangerously hot water on his floor.
“I injured my feet, I have blisters on them,” Glover said. “I barely got my shoes on, and I didn’t grab a jacket. I was just overwhelmed. It was really early in the morning, right after Founders’ Day.”
After about 30 minutes outside, the residents and Resident Assistants (RAs) returned to the building to discover steam pouring out from behind Glover’s door and to the growing pool of water in the hallway. They immediately alerted Macalester Security.
“The fire department was alerted, and they came about a half hour after they were called,” Dupre 2 RA Isaac Kim ’21 said. “It was like a sauna when I walked in. There was so much steam everywhere. There was so much water damage. Anything that was on the floor just got soaked.”
“There were a couple of Facilities people that were there around 4:45 or 5 [a.m.],” Dupre 2 RA Lidija Namike ’21 said. “They came and they had [wet vacs] but it was really ineffective because they would vacuum and the water would just immediately fill up again. So I was like, okay, we should do something to help.”
Namike, Kim and several other RAs used snow shovels to shovel water from the floors into garbage bins, which they then dumped in the nearby laundry room sinks while Facilities worked to stop the leak.
“We had that rotation going on for two hours,” Namike said. “When the other Facilities workers got here they did a great job cleaning up as well… but most of the Facilities people live like 30 minutes from campus, so they weren’t able to get there until like 5:30 or 6:00 [a.m.].”
Macalester moved Glover and other affected students to emergency housing in dorms across campus while Facilities and the Department of Residential Life worked to restore their damaged rooms.
“Everyone was offered temporary housing immediately,” Assistant Dean for Residential Life Coco Du said. “The most important thing we value is safety, and environmental safety is a big part of that.”
Following the chaos Saturday morning, Dupre residents have paid particularly close attention to the behavior of their radiators.
“Sunday morning, Jacob [Geers ’21], another RA from the floor above me, woke up to the sound of his radiator hissing and leaking water,” Namike said. “He called Facilities to come and fix it.”
“I did take the precaution of moving all of the things I kept on the floor and elevating them to higher surfaces,” she continued. “Just in case it were theoretically to happen in my room, there’d be less damage.”
For Glover, the experience has been stressful.
“I have this whole other set of responsibilities now,” he said. “It’s midterm season. I’m worried about tests, papers, all those types of things. But now I’m also worried about, like, where am I going to sleep? Can I get sheets for tonight?
“It’s a very first-world problem to have, but it still sucks when you don’t have a pillow. Now, my pillows are covered in radiator water.”
*Matt Glover is a Sports Editor for The Mac Weekly.