The vicious winds that whipped through the Walla Walla region on Friday, Jan. 4 left the Whitman College campus powerless for about 30 hours and messy with fallen trees and limbs. Damage to buildings and structures was minimal and, most important, no one was injured.
In addition to the 55-plus trees that did not weather the storm, the sculpture “Joined Together, Let No Man Split Asunder” was a striking casualty of the reported 78-m.p.h. winds. Several college-owned properties suffered roof damage and shingle loss. Temporary repairs were made over the weekend to damaged roofs. A tree also damaged the roof at the Kids Place child care center, and trees at the Whitman Athletics Fields also fell. To date, no other damage has been reported. All residence halls and academic and administrative buildings escaped damage.
The Whitman physical plant staff was pressed into action to clear trees and debris as well as work with Pacific Power crews throughout the weekend. Students were still on winter break, so when the power went out at about 10 a.m., the college was closed. Power was restored on campus at about 4 p.m. on Saturday. The only residual impact from the power outage that continues is the college’s voice mail system. As of noon Monday, it was not yet online, meaning voice mail messages could not be left on campus office phones.
The pieces of the broken sculpture will be moved to the Walla Walla Foundry, where artist Ed Humphreys and foundry owner Mark Anderson will explore the possibilities for its repair. Clean up work is expected to continue on campus throughout the week and should be completed over the next couple of weeks.
Whitman’s Tree and Landscape Committee will meet soon to discuss tree replacement and plan for repairing areas of the land that will be scarred by fallen trees.
President George Bridges issued the following statement:
"Above all else, we are thankful that no one was injured. And it is miraculous that the physical damage was minimal. I want to thank everyone who has stepped up in response to this storm. Our entire physical plant crew brought their knowledge and expertise. Our admissions, registrar, business office, student life and residence life staff spent hours over the weekend getting ready for students to return. And the technology services staff brought the campus network back online very quickly after power was restored. I’m not surprised about the way the campus pulled together in response to the storm, but I could not be more proud, grateful and impressed. We will keep campus community members up to date via the Web and e-mail."