Research, facilities staff minimize water damage to buildings during cold snap

A graphic shows a statue of two men in front of Lippincott Hall amid falling snow on the right, and on the left, text reads, "Unsung Heroes, James Kemerling, Laura Mohr, Greg Ornay, Carla Ramirez, Lori Schlenker

Research, facilities staff | March 2021

This winter’s extreme cold weather tested several buildings across campus, damaging pipes and causing flooding in the Shankel Structural Biology Center and Dyche Hall.  
But a group of research and facilities staff quickly discovered the compromised pipes — and their actions averted significant water damage to the research buildings.  
Carla Ramirez, facilities manager, found a broken water pipe in Shankel Structural Biology Center and alerted facilities and emergency personnel. She checked the extent of the damage, notified others in the building and coordinated the clean-up effort. 
“Her efforts minimized the damage that could have been done by this water pipe break,” said Erik Lundquist, associate vice chancellor for research. “Her care and hard work for SBC and its occupant researchers is remarkable.” 
The SBC, in KU’s West District, houses the Specialized Chemistry Center. 
In Dyche Hall, home of KU’s Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum, custodian James Kemerling discovered a frozen humidification line that caused flooding in the early morning hours on Feb. 16. Lori Schlenker, collections and facilities manager, and the staff of the exhibits team, including Greg Ornay and Laura Mohr, supervised the drying of water pools and helped assess damage.  
Schlenker stayed late that night, photographing damage, writing reports and notifying offices across KU. Ornay assessed damage to exhibits and moved some specimens as needed. Ornay and Mohr also removed art from wet walls.  
Together, the team worked to minimize damage on a day when campus was closed due to weather-related rolling blackouts.  
Schlenker, Ornay and Mohr aren’t “emergency personnel,” said Jorge Soberón, director of the Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum.  
“They all did this on their own time out of their commitment for the museum,” Soberón said. “We are extremely grateful to them.”