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Flood dumps at least 40,000 gallons of water into FLW tech park
Flood dumps at least 40,000 gallons of water into FLW tech park

Insulation and paneling hang down from the ceiling in a flood-damaged office at the Tech Park on Fort Leonard Wood.
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Dec. 24, 2008) — Numerous commercial and government offices were damaged early Tuesday morning by a flooded sprinkler system in the University of Missouri Tech Park on Fort Leonard Wood.

Personnel from Servitech of Rolla were still on the scene Wednesday with special vacuums removing what Tanya Solan, tech park manager, estimated was at least 40,000 gallons of water.

“This is a nightmare,” Solan said. “It was just an unforeseen occurrence; we just decided to clean the carpets the hard way.”

The water break happened about 1:30 a.m. and since it involved the sprinkler system, it set off an alarm that summoned the Fort Leonard Wood Fire Department. Fire officials notified Solan about 10 minutes later.

Despite the quick response, water was already backed up three feet high in two of the offices and had spread throughout the rest of the building as well, Solan said. While some of the carpet in some offices may be salvageable, virtually all the items in the two worst-affected offices were ruined, the phone system and e-mail aren’t functioning, and most items placed on floors even in far-flung parts of the 18,500-square foot building were ruined by three inches of standing water.

Solan said the two offices directly under the break are in the worst condition, and that damage in those offices isn’t limited to the three feet of water on the floor.

“The ceilings are caved in, in those particular rooms,” Solan said. “It is destroyed, everything is gone. It makes me feel bad because (an office tenant) is retired military. All of his personal belongings, everything was just ruined.”

Insurance adjusters from the University of Missouri aren’t yet close to producing a damage estimate, Solan said.

The sprinkler system break isn’t a standard break, she said. Solan said representatives of the Cintas company, which installed the sprinklers, told her that a main water line blew after condensation in the lines froze due to recent cold weather and then melted with a recent warm up.

“That blew the main water line,” Solan said. “At first we thought it was something simple like a sprinkler head. It blew this huge gasket apart. So Cintas is working up something to let us know what caused it and how to prevent it from happening again, but they were adamant that that this happens … the lines are tested, Cintas does a regular yearly check, and they came in and checked everything and they were all up to par.”

Employees of the Servitech company will set up more than a hundred dehumidifiers and fans in an effort to prevent mold growth and begin a five-day process that Solan said she hoped would end with the building being declared ready to re-occupy by the end of the Christmas holiday weekend.

“The lucky thing (with) the timing that has occurred, a lot of people were on vacation or are gone at this time anyway, and a lot of the people here can go home and set up home offices, as long as they got their computers out,” Solan said. “Hopefully by the time they all come back it will be almost back to top shape as if it never happened.”

“I plan on working every single day until Monday, including Christmas Day, to make sure that this is taken care of,” Solan said.

While Army offices can be relocated to other facilities, many of the tenants are civilian contractors working with the military and finding space for the civilian office tenants has been problematic. A second building is in the tech park, but it’s already at 110 percent capacity with no vacant offices.

The damaged offices include the Leonard Wood Institute, which provides millions of dollars in grants for research and development to defense-related businesses.

Leonard Wood Institute staff members were in the process of processing applications for about $24 million in grants for the upcoming grant year, and sensitive documents needed to be removed from the building immediately. The timing was “very unfortunate,” according to the secretary of LWI’s board of directors, Bill Ransdall.

Ransdall also has a housing salvage contract on Fort Leonard Wood so he sent his employees to help move the files to storage space in the St. Robert Municipal Center. There are still many unused areas in the building that St. Robert purchased from Wal-Mart and converted into facilities for the city hall, police department, post office and Drury University’s branch campus.

“The flood was not good news, displacing so many businesses as they wind down their calendar year,” Ransdall said. “I’d personally like to thank St. Robert’s city administrator, Norman Herren, for accommodating the storage of records and offering office space to the Leonard Wood Institute for temporary offices until the university can repair the damage at the Tech Park on Fort Leonard Wood.”

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