Pipe bursts wreak havoc in residence halls, academic spaces
February 10, 2023
Extreme cold temperatures last weekend were not only record-breaking, but also pipe-breaking, as flooding in Coles Tower, Memorial Hall and Hawthorne-Longfellow (H-L) Library forced evacuations and damaged building infrastructure.
Just after 1 a.m. on Sunday morning, a burst pipe on the second floor of Coles Tower created a ruckus and set off the fire alarm in the building. Bowdoin Security and the Brunswick Fire Department assisted in evacuating students to Thorne Dining Hall, where students were then told to find alternate sleeping arrangements for the night.
Sarah Conant ’24 and Melissa Su ’24, both residents of the second floor of Coles Tower, were in their rooms when the burst occurred.
“I was fast asleep and didn’t hear anything—I woke up to the lights flashing from the fire alarm and my roommate yelling that we needed to get out of there. I just grabbed my stuff and ran,” Conant said.
Su was also woken by her roommate, and she felt the water entering her room as she departed.
“My roommate heard a really loud crash, and then the alarm started,” she said. “I stepped in a puddle … [and] there was already water pooled up by my bed.”
Executive Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols quickly recognized that the situation was serious and would require Coles Tower residents to sleep elsewhere for the remainder of the night.
“Before heading to campus, I emailed all Tower residents from my home to suggest that they try to make their own sleeping arrangements with friends, due to the long wait ahead,” he wrote in an email to the Orient.
He further explained that Security officers took additional steps to ensure all students could have as comfortable a night as possible.
“Security officers on the scene also let students know that Smith Union would be opened. Blankets and pillows were provided, and many students spent the rest of the night there,” he wrote.
Conant explained she spent the remainder of the night at a friend’s downtown Brunswick house and that it was clear to her that water was still entering her residence by the time she left campus.
“When we were leaving the Tower, there was water all pooled up in the lobby … When we were in Thorne, we could see a little bit into our common room, and … there was water dripping,” she said.
Director of Residential and Housing Operations Lisa Rendall explained that students living on the second floor of Coles Tower will not be able to live in their rooms for an extended period of time.
“Facilities Management is still assessing the water damage, so we do not yet have a clear timeline for [second floor residents] to return to the building,” she wrote in an email to the Orient. “Only residents of the second floor of Coles Tower will be displaced beyond Sunday … [and] second floor residents were assigned to available rooms in Chamberlain Hall [by] midday Sunday.”
Students like Su found that some of their belongings were damaged when they returned to their rooms.
“My backpack was on the ground, so some of my notebooks and books are basically ruined,” she said. “My roommate’s MacBook was on the ground too, so her screen was damaged by the water.”
Rendall noted that all damaged items will be replaced by the College.
Associate Vice President for Facilities and Capital Projects Jeff Tuttle explained that the pipes caused drywall damage to ceilings and walls on the second floor of Coles Tower, in addition to water infiltration on the first floor and some electrical damage. Electrical equipment and drywall were also damaged in Memorial Hall, which was closed to the public over the weekend for water removal. In H-L Library, according to Tuttle, infrastructural damage was minimal but several hundred books were damaged by water infiltration and are in the process of being restored.
Plans for repairs for all buildings are currently in place and will begin once drying of the affected areas is complete.
“We need to completely dry the affected areas before the repairs can begin,” Tuttle wrote in an email to the Orient. “Cleaning and dehumidification have been ongoing for several days. We are in hopes that all areas can be repaired within the next few weeks barring any unforeseen issues.”
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Tear down Coles Tower and I’ll donate all my money to Bowdoin.
– Class of ’02.