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UW-Platteville tornado repairs could top $10M

Jun. 25, 2014
 
A light tower at Pioneer Stadium on the University of Wisconsin-Platteville campus was blown down by a tornado on June 17. The football field's artificial surface was torn up by broken glass and also will have to be replaced.
A light tower at Pioneer Stadium on the University of Wisconsin-Platteville campus was blown down by a tornado on June 17. The football field's artificial surface was torn up by broken glass and also will have to be replaced. / File/AP

PLATTEVILLE — The tornado that struck the University of Wisconsin-Platteville last week damaged at least four buildings and an athletic stadium, and the repairs could exceed $10 million, Chancellor Dennis J. Shields said Wednesday.

Officials hope to have the buildings repaired by Aug. 15, when student athletes and members of the marching band are expected to arrive. The majority of students are expected to move in around Aug. 20, before classes start Sept. 2, he said.

Three residence halls sustained water damage after the tornado, packing winds of up to 120 mph, displaced roofs and sent debris smashing through dozens of windows, Shields said.

“It looks like a car was picked up and thrown against the engineering building,” he told The Associated Press.

About 200 summer students were scattered throughout the residence halls when the tornado struck on the evening of June 16. The only reported injuries were bumps and bruises, and Shields credited dorm staff and security members for keeping students safe.

He estimated that repairs would cost at least $10 million, most of which he expected would be covered by insurance. However, insurance might not cover the damage to a campus park where dozens of trees were knocked down, he added.

The athletic field’s artificial surface was shredded by broken glass and will have to be replaced. There was also damage to concrete sections that crews should be able to replace, as long as examinations don’t reveal further damage, Shields said.

Three of the stadium’s lighting poles were knocked down and the fourth was bent. All four will have to be replaced.

Contractors are fairly confident they can have the stadium fully repaired by mid-September, he said. The school’s football team opens the season on the road, and its first home game is Sept. 13. Several soccer matches may have to be relocated.

Shields was in Beijing on business when the tornado struck. He said he stayed in constant contact with a vice chancellor, and it took about a day before school officials could assure him with confidence that no students had been hurt.

He credited school executives and police officials for being so prepared to handle an emergency, and for executing their training so well under pressure.

“That’s the real story here,” he said. “I was on the other side of the world and they stepped up in a really big way.”

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