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Engineers examine HBU complex; ETBU hunkered down for Ike; SBTS power restored

HOUSTON (BP)–Engineers are taking a close look at the extent of damage Hurricane Ike inflicted on Houston Baptist University’s Brown Administrative Complex and M.D. Anderson Student Center.

They received the heaviest damage from the hurricane and they’re the oldest facilities on campus, dating back to the early 1960s, Martha Morrow, assistant vice president for university communications, told Baptist Press Sept. 17.

HBU’s administrative offices -– including admissions, registrar, financial aid, communications and spiritual life — take up three sides of a quadrangular complex while the student center occupies the fourth side.

The university’s residence halls have been assessed by engineers as being in good shape, Morrow reported.

Morrow said HBU’s administrative staff members currently are working from laptop computers and cell phones and cannot yet return to their offices to access documents and files.

The resumption of classes at the 2,500-student campus remains a “day-by-day decision,” Morrow said. Power had not been restored as of noon Sept. 17 and students have not been permitted to return to the 154-acre campus just southwest of downtown Houston.

Hurricane Ike came at a time when HBU had enrolled a record freshman class of 475 -– twice the number from two years ago -– and hired 30 new faculty members, Morrow said.

The initial damage estimate at HBU from Hurricane Ike ranges from $8 million to $10 million, President Robert Sloan reported on the university’s www.hbu.edu website Sept. 15.

The damage estimate “is expected to rise,” Sloan noted, “as building and infrastructure inspections continue throughout the coming weeks.”

Sloan, in his message on the website, noted, “Our campus can be rebuilt and repaired, but I think we all walked away from this experience with a greater appreciation for the everyday blessings of God….

“We urge HBU alumni and our friends across the country to include Houston Baptist University and all those affected by this event in your prayers. We have also added a link to our homepage for those of you who would like to contribute to our efforts as we work to rebuild and repair our campus. Donations may be made online or by mail.”

At East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, Hurricane Ike caused a 28-hour loss of electrical service when its winds knocked down power lines and trees, according to a Sept. 17 ETBU news release.

ETBU workers removed fallen trees from campus streets and some cars. With electrical service returning to the campus late Sunday evening, classes were held as scheduled on Monday, Sept. 15.

ETBU’s office of student services went into a crisis management mode in advance of Ike. Students were kept informed of the situation through their residential directors and the university’s emergency alert system which sends e-mail messages to students as well as staff and faculty in addition to posting information on ETBU’s www.etbu.edu website. The alert system also sends text messages to cell phone users who have registered for the service.

The ETBU physical facilities department spent Saturday night securing the campus as Ike blew through, downing some trees and utility lines. Sunday was spent cutting up downed trees, clearing debris and doing a walkthrough of each building. The crew also prepared Keys Gymnasium on Friday, at the request of Marshall’s emergency management coordinator, so it could be used as a special needs shelter by the Texas Department of Social and Health Services.

Allan Thompson, director of the ETBU’s Great Commission Center, reported that despite their own crisis, ETBU students were providing help when needed at eight evacuee shelters in Marshall, which received more than 1,000 evacuees from Orange County.

During the blackout, according to the news release, resident directors and resident assistants were walking the halls and visiting with students during the blackout, and informal dorm meetings were held periodically to pass on information as received regarding the storm and meals,” said Tricia Hart, administrative assistant in the student services office. “Some of the students passed the time by visiting and playing board games in the lobbies.”

Resident directors and resident assistants also took shifts in each dorm during the night hours for security purposes and to be alerted to any needs. The cafeteria in the Bennett Student Center remained operational because a generator was brought in for limited food service on Sunday. The power to keep the communication network online came from an emergency generator installed at the Charles E. Herrington Service Center for such a need as the campus experienced.

Meanwhile in Louisville, Ky., electricity was restored Tuesday at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College after 75 mph winds Sunday knocked out power throughout much of the area. Offices reopened Wednesday and classes will resume Monday.
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston, with reporting by Mike Midkiff, director of public relations at East Texas Baptist University.

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