“When the Iowa River overflowed its banks 12 years ago, inundating the campus of the University of Iowa, Donald Guckert, associate vice president for facilities management, learned some important lessons in adapting to climate change.

The university had been prepared for a 100-year flood like the one that had hit the campus in 1993; it wasn’t ready for the 500-year flood it got, Guck­ert said.

“We fought the flood for 10 days — it kept building and building,” he recalled.

After the unprecedented flood, the university stopped relying on sandbags stacked by crews of volunteers and started using machines and trained staff members to put up barriers quickly. It stockpiled critical equipment and supplies such as pumps, generators, and shovels to get ready for the next flood.

But the most important things that Guckert learned during the catastrophic flood of 2008 were to plan for the worst and adjust quickly to changes on the ground.

Those lessons could come in handy today, as the University of Iowa and campuses nationwide confront the coronavirus, a pandemic of uncertain severity and duration. It’s a threat that — like the historic flood — keeps “building and building.” Dozens of colleges have already canceled in-person classes and sent students home; many have shifted to online learning.

As more colleges contemplate such moves, it’s worth hearing from some institutions that have lived through closures resulting from natural disasters. Though the circumstances are different — there’s never been a pandemic that’s shut down so many of the nation’s colleges — the strategies for responding are, in many cases, the same.”

Read the full article at Chronicle.com.

Recent Tweets