Torrential downpours on Friday night caused damage to Emmaus High School, flooding the building’s lowest floor, including the main office, classrooms, and gyms, resulting in the closure of school for Monday, Nov. 5.
It was late Friday night when the news started circulating. Distorted, blurry images of muddy water seeping into familiar hallways and splashing through classrooms were suddenly trending. The waters reached over a foot high in certain areas, destroying carpets, textbooks, low drywall, locker interiors, computers and other items on the ground or on bottom shelves. In the afternoon, standing water still affected areas like the auxiliary gym and family consumer science classrooms.
EHS principal Kate Kieres detailed the school’s efforts to cease the flooding and account for damage, as maintenance staff worked “throughout the night” and into the day.
“When there is this kind of damage, there are companies that are on call all the time,” Kieres said, gesturing to the waterline stained on the wall. “They’re like water remediation companies. You will see some of the guys here and the trucks around, and it’s their job to go to sites like this as soon as water hits and start working. So right now we have at least 30 people from the remediation company who are here and almost all of our district maintenance staff are here. In the middle of the night they were here.”
Dehumidifiers and shop vacuums littered the halls, suctioning up the last of the water as people in rubber boots stalked through dirty puddles to drag debris outside. An industrial hygienist from Restore Core, the remediation company, and an insurance agent were scheduled to come to assess the damage and make recommendations.
Luckily the flooding was localized and did not affect the administering of the SAT this morning. Junior Brooke Seislove felt that the school looked ordinary.
“I was up by the guidance office and there wasn’t anything there [that suggested damage],” Seislove said. “It looked normal.”
Superficially, the building was normal — gleaming lockers and immaculate floors belied the destruction just one floor below.
Social studies teacher Melissa Moxley spoke on the logistical impacts of the flooding after seeing the leaf-strewn, dirt-tracked bare floor of her classroom, devoid of carpeting. She was concerned about the computers and other technological equipment that may have been affected by the flooding.
“The chromebook cart is probably dead,” Moxley said. “Anybody who had a chromebook in their locker, it’s fried.”
Moxley is, however, maintaining an optimistic outlook.
“The entire maintenance staff, from not just this building, but all of the other buildings are here helping,” Moxley said. “So everyone’s really on top of things. So I think it’ll be a quick cleanup, as quick as [it can be].”
Despite the heavy toll on interior damage, Kieres adopted an encouraging and positive attitude. Most of the helpers scattered throughout the hallway were teachers, secretaries, and administrators volunteering their time to assist in the crisis.
“First thing this morning, Mr. Smith, the wrestling coach… got the call that the wrestling room was affected,” Kieres said. “[He] called the parents, the booster club, and the kids, and the wrestling team was here before I got here this morning, cleaning out the wrestling room and lifting up the mats.”
The help didn’t stop there: it spread to the entire community.
“People were texting me at 6 o’clock this morning to say ‘what can I do,’” Kieres said. “People have [been] stopping in. We were just getting ready to order food for all the people here from Armetta’s, and we found out that someone had already ordered 40 pizzas to be delivered… for all the people here. There’s some community effort.”
And that community effort has created a truly unique situation, where people from all over the district have streamed in to aid restoration efforts. Laughter and voices rebounded off soaking floors and smudged walls, and optimism echoed in the wake of lumbering shop vacuums and giant fans.
With crews working around the clock, Moxley thinks the best there is to do is to remain positive.
”It is what it is, there’s nothing we can do about it,” Moxley said. “It’s Mother Nature, it happens.”