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Removal of tree after Hurricane Florence
This fallen oak at Parker Residence Hall was one of many trees taken down by wind and rain from Hurricane Florence.

The problem with sandbags is that they are a do-it-yourself project. You can order the bags and you can order the sand, but you have to put the sand in the bags yourself. And when it looked like Hurricane Florence would make a direct hit, Facilities Services employees filled 4,000 sandbags.

That’s a lot of sand. To be precise, “90 tons of sand, 180,000 pounds, 12 dump truck loads,” said Steve Gooch, director of grounds services.

Then those sandbags had to be placed all over campus, wherever there was potential for flooding or water damage. How did they know where to put the sandbags? Todd Going, interim director of building services, had gone back through his department’s records, looking for buildings that had flooded in the past three years.

“Our theme was to prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” Going said. “And one of the better scenarios, for us, came to pass.”

At the University, classes were cancelled, and students were urged to go home and non-mandatory employees were urged to take leave. Only mandatory employees—many of them in Facilities Services—were required to report to work. Some even stayed overnight.

“Our people answered the call,” Gooch said. “I can’t say enough about them. Some of them have no power, their kids are out of school, there’s a tree on their house, but they still came to work.”

Several trees fell on campus and had to be removed and sidewalks had to be cleared of fallen limbs and branches. The housekeeping teams not only performed their regular duties, but also provided housekeeping services for 500 evacuees occupying a shelter set up at the Friday Center.

And all those sandbags had to be picked up.

Facilities Services employees were busy when many employees were at home. “They don’t really do it for the money,” Going said. “They are passionate about the University. Facilities cares about UNC.”

Staff deployed to UNC Pembroke after Hurricane Florence
On Sept. 18, 15 employees from building services, grounds services and housekeeping services posed for this quick photo before heading out to help with recovery and cleanup efforts at UNC Pembroke in Robeson County, which was hit hard by Hurricane Florence. The volunteers arrived within 24 hours of getting the call for help and worked through Sept. 21, when they returned to Chapel Hill. The 15 facilities services employees are Myo Tun, Lay Blade and Eh Moo of housekeeping services; Keith Jeremiah, James Aiken, Todd Hartselle, Cody Mazerek and Robert Bradley of grounds services; and Bob Mazurek, Josh Pates, William Watts, Ken Boycher, Mike Bishop, Russell Parks and Santiago Peredes of building services. Employees from energy services and environment, health and safety have also been dispatched to help at UNC Pembroke and UNC Wilmington.

Story by Susan Hudson, University Gazette.

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