Frozen pipes lead to floods on campus


Two NMU residence hall lobbies and the loading dock of the Marketplace flooded on Monday, Feb. 11, resulting in multiple damages to university property. All three incidents were caused after sprinkler systems unexpectedly malfunctioned due to frozen water pipes.

The lobbies of Gant/Spalding and Payne/Halverson halls filled with water early Monday morning, said Anson Bonte, the resident director of Payne Hall. Bonte added that water levels in the Payne/Halverson lobby were ankle-deep.

Resident advisors and directors from most of the residence halls used shovels and squeegees to remove the water that covered the lobby floors, Bonte said. NMU Public Safety was also called to the scene to shut off the water.

“The RAs and a couple of residents had some quick thinking,” Bonte said. “Otherwise, this could have been much worse. Usually, RA’s get woken up that early when there is a snow day. Instead they were woken up to put on their flip flops or shoes and grab a shovel and push water out.”

A sofa and the carpeting in both of the residence hall lobbies were damaged, with repair costs unknown at this time. Greg Pronger, a resident advisor in Spalding, said the carpeting in the Gant/Spalding lobby is in tile form, and some of the tiles are peeling from the floor due to water damage. Multiple ceiling tiles also need to be replaced. The carpeting in Payne/Halverson lobby, however, is solid carpeting and was cleaned shortly after the water was removed. No electrical damage was reported in either lobby.

The loading dock of the Marketplace also experienced sprinkler problems Monday evening after a water pipe froze and split, said Carl Holm, director of housing and residence life.

“There was an awful lot of water in that area,” Holm said. “It was a very significant flood.”

Most of the water, however, was able to be swept down a drain by employees. Bonte said computers and other electronic equipment were cleared out of offices to prevent further damage. Public Safety was again called to shut off the water and students in the Marketplace were asked to leave.

Holm added that this wasn’t the first time cold weather has affected Northern sprinkler systems.

“Unfortunately, it has happened before in those lobbies,” Holm said. “At least on two occasions we’ve had sprinklers freeze and we thought the remedial work that we’ve done would have prevented that from happening again. But obviously there is more we need to do.”