In the wake of Hurricane Gustav, chemistry faculty at Louisiana State University, in Baton Rouge, describe a campus littered with downed trees and power lines, although the department itself sustained relatively little major damage.
The "power lines look like plates of spaghetti," says John Finley, chemistry professor at LSU.
The hurricane swept through Baton Rouge on Labor Day. As of Sept. 3, power had been restored to about 80% of the LSU campus, while much of the city remained dark. Some researchers were working to get refrigerators running and instruments back under vacuum and down to cryogenic temperatures, chemistry professor Kermit K. Murray says. But getting people back to work will take time.
"The limiting factor for getting researchers back into their labs is restoring electrical power to the city," Murray says. "Just getting gas and groceries will be difficult until that happens."
The chemistry building, like much of the campus, is largely intact. Murray says that during the hurricane, a work crew???s trailer next to the building was pushed about 4 feet, "but a large satellite dish was seemingly untouched."
Faculty also praised LSU for its role in assisting evacuees from local parishes. The campus opened its basketball arena as an emergency medical facility for 800 evacuees. The LSU administration "deserves tremendous accolades," Finley says.
Southern University & A&M College, also in Baton Rouge, experienced power outages, as well. It is scheduled to reopen on Monday, but faculty and staff have been asked to report to work on Sept. 5.??"I guess that by tomorrow we'll know the extent of damage throughout campus," says Michelle Claville, a chemistry professor at the university.
The LSU chemistry department was operating on generator power until Sept. 2, when campus grid power was restored. Campus crews had cleaned up water on the floors by the morning of Sept. 3, and air conditioning was expected to be restored that evening, Murray says.
Chemistry professor Robin L. McCarley is concerned that LSU's troubles may not be over. "With water, heat, and high humidity in the building, we may have long-term problems yet unseen," he says.
The American Chemistry Council, the U.S. chemical industry's main trade association, reported last week that Gulf Coast chemical facilities weathered Gustav without incident. ACC Managing Director Mike Walls said there were no injuries or chemical releases from member company plants. "Currently, the major challenge facing our members is to restore power and telecommunications," he said.
"While recovering from Gustav will remain a priority, our industry is already preparing for several new storms forming in the Atlantic that are expected to make landfall in the coming days."