Storm downs trees, knocks out power on Berry’s campus

Elizabeth Montiel-Alvarado, Campus Carrier staff writer

Clean-up crews began removing debris and
fallen trees soon after the storm ended. Photo Courtesy of Kate Harvey

On March 3, 2023, a quick passing storm hit Berry College and the Rome area. Due to the high winds, Berry experienced a substantial amount of damage, mostly dealing with fallen trees and scattered debris. Due to a disruption in a power infrastructure off campus, Berry was also left with no light or electricity for a few hours. 

Within the surrounding areas, there were reports of thunderstorms but no official warnings or tornado watches for the Rome Floyd area. 

“The storm hit around 2:30 or 3:00 and we got really concerned because we knew there was a storm coming but we didn’t think it was that serious,” Emma Allen, a resident assistant (RA) for the East Mary residence hall, said. 

As this was the Friday before spring break, many students and faculty were in the process of returning home. This was also the time elementary and middle school students are released and that parents pick up their kids from the Child Development Center. With heavy traffic, the main concern at the moment was to clear the streets and allow everyone to get to their destination.

“The immediate thing was getting people who wanted to leave campus, off campus, because the main entrance was closed,” Gary Will, assistant vice president for campus safety and land management, said.

Because of the debris, navigating the roads was extremely dangerous. There was also no way to be sure that there were no fallen power lines or any other dangers. Though with the help of Berry Alert, an emergency notification system, alerts were sent out to protect students and to attempt to direct people off campus through the service road. 

The Berry College community was among the immediate response teams providing aid and labor. Many people came together to help direct traffic and push branches off the roads and sidewalks to clear a path. “Berry employees, staff, faculty, students, everyone came out to help. It was unbelievable the amount of help and the number of people that were looking to do whatever they could do to help.” said Will. 

Additionally, the relationship the Physical Plant Department has with the tree companies who do routine tree work on campus is incredibly positive. Within 30 minutes to an hour, there was a quick response from the tree companies, and clean-up started immediately.

“Our relationships with the tree companies are so good that they were here. It‘s not like we waited very long for the removal of trees from the streets and the sidewalks,” Will said.

From a fire safety perspective, it was critical for everyone on campus to stay alert during this time. With the power outage, none of the fire safety systems were working and all of the telephone lines were cut off. Together, the police department and RA’s were encouraged to walk around the inside of the buildings and make sure all was safe. 

“The RA’s that were still on campus that weren’t leaving for spring break or weren’t leaving until the next day or that weekend, everybody was put on alert to stay awake or alert and walk their hallways,” Will said. 

For those who were hungry or looking for somewhere to group with other people while the power was off, Berry’s dining hall was open and served some food. “I was a little concerned about the power not turning on when they sent out the email that it would be a minimum of four hours, but they were doing the best they could, and I was happy that Dhall did a sandwich hot meal type of thing,” Allen said 

Even though there were chaotic events and dangerous situations, Berry’s response was immediate and ensured everyone’s safety. But in such situations, students and faculty should also ensure their own personal safety and not put themselves in any danger. With certain factors like not knowing whether there are any fallen power lines, it is advisable to stay put and be very aware of your surroundings. 

“When we have an incident like that it’s probably not the safest thing to be crawling around on down trees or walking around,” Will said.

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