- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2003

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — Hurricane Isabel caused significant damage at the U.S. Naval Academy, destroying lab equipment, plumbing and ventilation systems, and leaving half the classrooms unusable, school officials said.

Marines and civilian workers had sandbagged buildings last week, and some staff members had moved computers and other valuables off the ground floors before the storm hit late Thursday.

But academy officials said they had underestimated the force of a storm that at its peak left parts of the campus 8 feet under water.

“We’re in disaster recovery here at the academy,” spokesman Cmdr. Rod Gibbons said yesterday. “There was significant flood damage throughout the academy.”

He stressed that the damage was to mechanical and electrical systems, adding, “Structurally, the buildings are fine.”

Several academic buildings were so waterlogged that it was unsafe to restore power. Professors moved their classes to gyms, libraries, auditoriums and other dry spots.

Academy officials were assessing the damage, and no dollar estimate was available. The 338-acre Annapolis campus lies where the Severn River flows into the Chesapeake Bay, and the storm surge caused by the hurricane pushed water into the Bay and its tributaries. Significant parts of the campus are built on landfill that is particularly vulnerable to flooding.

The basements and ground floors of Rickover and Chauvenet halls, the engineering and science buildings, suffered particularly severe damage. Floodwaters ravaged the chemistry lab.

More than 100 contractors have been working around the clock, pumping out basements, repairing electrical lines, disinfecting buildings and ripping up drenched carpets.

Cmdr. Gibbons said the military college expects to have hot water and electricity back within a few days. Hot water service has been restored to Bancroft Hall, the huge dormitory that houses all 4,000 students, he said yesterday.

It may take months to repair the central air conditioning plant and weeks to restore heat.

Despite damage to grounds and buildings, academy officials said they were successful in protecting students and boats.

No one at the academy was injured.

Midshipmen stayed inside Bancroft Hall during the storm, emerging Friday to help clear fallen branches and limbs.

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