Downpour drenches campus

By Lisa Heller
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 4, 1996

Adam F. Jarrold
Arizona Daily Wildcat

The sand volleyball courts in front of Arizona-Sonora Residence Hall are almost completely submersed in water yesterday, after a powerful thunderstorm moved through the Tucson area in the early morning. Lightning caused problems with traffic control gates at all of the campus' gated parking areas and garages. An estimated 1.5 inches of rain fell on the UA campus during the storm, causing traffic delays that forced some professors to cancel their classes.


Sleep wasn't the only thing disrupted by the heavy storm that hit the UA campus with lightning, thunder and nearly 1.5 inches of rain yesterday morning.

Besides flooded streets that slowed down motorists and heavy winds that knocked down trees and garbage cans throughout the Tucson area, the University of Arizona campus had its share of problems as well .

Lightning struck a main data line to the campus parking garage servers and knocked everything off-line sometime early yesterday morning, said Marlis Davis, director of Parking and Transportation Services.

This caused ticket machines to malfunction and gates to remain open to the public temporarily. Motorists drove in without taking tickets, but still had to pay the parking attendant on the way out for the time they parked in the garage.

Because the more than 20 gated areas and garages are connected by the same computer system, each one had to be reset individually Tuesday morning. It took about three hours to get everything back on-line, Davis said.

"The data lines go off a lot because of lightning," she said. "We have no backup system, but it's easily fixed."

The monsoons also caused some professors to cancel their Tuesday classes. The English department reported that two professors canceled class because of traffic delays. Other departments also reported that some professors ran late.

All of the streets on campus were flooded during yesterday's storm, but there were no accidents because of the rain, said University of Arizona Police Department Acting Lt. Brian Seastone. He said all the traffic lights near campus were fine, and most delays were just due to flooded streets.

The Memorial Student Union also had its share of damage from the storms. The Union reported two leaks - one on the third floor of the building and the other in front of Sam's Place in the basement, said Joseph Sottosanti, assistant director of operations for the Union.

The rain gauge located on the UA campus recorded a total of 2.7 inches of rain from Sunday night's and Tuesday morning's storms, said Chuck Raetzman, assistant director of operations services of Facilities Management. He estimated that 1.5 inches fell during yesterday morning's storm.

The Tucson Airport's official report was 1.45 inches of rain.

Raetzman said that the campus lost a few young trees, but none were downed by lightning strikes.

"Overall, the campus handled the storms pretty good," Raetzman said. "We project potholes on the streets after the water dries, but that's about it."

The Tucson Fire Department handled three dozen water rescues yesterday, including the rescue of a five-year-old boy who was not breathing. The boy was pulled out of a submersed car stalled in a downtown Tucson underpass.

The Rural Metro Fire Department received 47 calls, and responded to 33 flood-related calls. Eight calls involved people stuck in vehicles in flooded rivers or washes, spokesman Roger Dougherty said.

The highest concentration of rainfall yesterday came in the northwest part of the city, where the National Weather Service reported 4.8 inches of rain in the area of East Sunrise Drive and North Craycroft Road, Meteorologist Paul Flatt said.

Meteorologist Clifford Collins, of the National Weather Service in Tucson, predicted that thunderstorms will continue through the rest of the week, but he said yesterday's heavy rainfall was unusual.

With the technology available now, the weather service can't predict how much rain will fall, "but it probably won't be as bad as last night," Collins said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.