Belen Yudess ’25
Social Media Manager
On Jan. 21, the Claremont area was subject to a torrential wind storm, with winds as strong as 35 miles per hour. What began as a heavy breeze in the early afternoon quickly amped up to a howling current that prompted a campus safety notification at 10:51p.m., saying, “…HIGH WIND ACTIVITY THROUGHOUT THE NIGHT … Impacts: Damaging winds will blow down large objects such as trees and power lines. Power outages are expected in the City of Claremont and throughout the region.” On its own, this email was enough to elicit a sense of unease about the extremity of the situation, but at approximately 10:52 p.m., a minute after the warning was issued, the power proceeded to go out, confirming any suspicion about the strength of the winds.
Although some dorms, such as GJW, still had minimal light in the hallways due to back up generators, other dorms such as Browning and Revelle were not as fortunate. “We had no power. I was like, don’t leave, because I don’t know if you can get back in because [of the] keypads,” said Kayla Solomon ’23, the RC for both Revelle and GJW. “I told my residents to stay where you are, make sure you’re communicating with your friends, tell them to stay put.”
Due to the lack of power, other necessities such as the water dispensers, keypads, and Wi-Fi were not functioning, as well as other dorm features that require electricity. “The one problem we did have was [that] the defibrillator was making this beeping sound because it lost electricity,” said Solomon. “So it was like an alarm going off. I had to call campus safety … but campus safety’s lines went out. I was actually on the phone with someone from campus safety and got cut off … So we had an alarm going off the whole time with no lights … I had a flashlight, so that was good. Emergency preparedness, thanks dad.”
Aside from the electrical problems, Revelle, and other dorms located near trees and other large structures also faced the possibility of external damage. “There was a huge fallen tree in front of the house blocking one of the pathways,” said Solomon. “There was just debris everywhere. Luckily there was no structural damage to the house, but there definitely could have been.”
During the chaos of that night, all RCs and CCs were in constant communication to ensure the safety and well-being of each other and their residents. “We were all communicating via text … and we’ve just kind of leaned on each other to make sure everything was okay,” said Solomon.
Campus safety continued to update the community about the status of the electricity and condition of the campus with a brief email sent at 10:50 a.m. on Saturday Jan. 22 that said, “Due to the HIGH WINDS experienced in Claremont last night, we have multiple trees and wires down around the campus and its surrounding areas. We ask that you please try your best to stay inside your living areas, so that working/emergency crews can clear the affected areas.”
Although students had an idea about what lay ahead of them when they stepped outside that Saturday morning, with many waking up to broken branches or fallen furniture outside their windows, no one expected the harsh reality of the situation.
“It was definitely chaotic given that you walk outside and it’s shocking the amount of debris and chaos,” said Solomon. “Our beautiful campus was turned into a wasteland, like post-apocalyptic.”
Joya Salas, the facilities manager at Scripps, shared this sentiment and expressed her disbelief over the aftermath of the storm. “We were expecting the possibility of strong winds but there hasn’t been a wind event like this in my lifetime here in Claremont,” said Salas. “We are aware of these advisories and we take them very seriously, but I was surprised that Scripps, this little area was hit so hard, and there was no way to predict that.”
Entirely uprooted trees, thrown and turned over furniture, and the complete demolition of the outdoor classrooms were some of the major consequences of that night’s events. Although much work needed to be done to restore the campus to its former appearance, the top priority of the time was to clear the pathways or any other hazardous objects.
“One of my grounds arrived at five,” said Salas. “People were showing up and it was really nice because … it was just unspoken. We all were here helping. The frontline staff was checking for downed wires and all of the major post wind dangers, making sure all was secure. First we had to clear critical pathways for emergency vehicles should the need arise.”
Despite significant damages to the campus, no one was hurt as a result of the destruction and none of the technology from the outdoor classrooms was present in the tents, therefore saved from their collapse. Only two trees were lost that night, as well as an off-campus house that was hit by a fallen tree.
“I think we’ve done a really awesome job … getting the campus back together,” said Salas. Critical staff set out in various directions to restore the campus for residential and educational use.
Almost four weeks later, a majority of the trees have been cleared and the outdoor classrooms have been restored. As with any challenge, although first met with fear and apprehension, ultimately, the shared desire to surpass and overcome has a unique ability of bringing communities together; this case was no different.
“Everyone sort of found their niche to help and gave it like 110%,” said Salas. “There is something to say about these sort of tragic events, building community resilience. I’ve seen that firsthand. There’s been a shared experience for sure. I mean for COVID and now this, we have a lot of resilience hopefully after all of this.”
Image Source: Ellen Hu ’24