The Wilson Beacon

Heavy rains exploit construction flaws; Wilson floods

Moderate+flooding+throughout+the+first+floor+has+ravaged+supplies+and+floor+tiles.+The+Robotics+team+has+worked+with+Wilson+to+create+a+temporary+solution.
Moderate flooding throughout the first floor has ravaged supplies and floor tiles. The Robotics team has worked with Wilson to create a temporary solution.

Moderate flooding throughout the first floor has ravaged supplies and floor tiles. The Robotics team has worked with Wilson to create a temporary solution.

Mary Barnes

Mary Barnes

Moderate flooding throughout the first floor has ravaged supplies and floor tiles. The Robotics team has worked with Wilson to create a temporary solution.

Zara Hall and Talya Lehrich

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For the first few weekends of the school year, the fate of Wilson students was akin to their ancestral peers on Noah’s Ark: turbulent rainstorms, unending precipitation, and frightful lightning. Unlike the biblical boat of divine prophecy, the Wilson building has been unable to contain the storm, and flooding has caused major water damage in many parts of the school. In some areas outside the building, it piled up to four feet high.

Wilson’s Director of Strategy and Logistics Brandon Hall, said that the flooding is due to poor construction of the building. “Some areas are kind of flawed in construction,” he said. “As a result, there is drainage that is not prepared to handle torrential downpours.” Wilson flooded 11 times this September.

The flooding appeared as an issue for the first time this school year due to immense amounts of rain. According to The Washington Post, DC received 8.25 inches of rain this September, 5.44 inches above average. The total for the year is already 48.93 inches, 19 inches above average. At the current rate, 2018 will be the DC’s wettest year on record.

Students are usually not in the building when the flooding occurs. “It [usually] floods on the weekends or after six o’clock,” said Hall. On multiple occasions, custodians worked overtime to drain the flooding and make sure the school was clear of water. Principal Kimberly Martin and administrators alike have had to pitch in at times to aid the clean-up process. “It has just been a tiresome task,” Hall said.

While Hall could not cite the exact cost of the flood damages, ruined art supplies alone cost more than a thousand dollars, and DGS has had to perform multiple floor replacements. “The first time it was just the tile, so they took out the tile and replaced the tile, but this last time, they had to take up the entire wooding, the panels that are beneath the floor under the tile, and put the tile back on,” Hall said.

While only the Department of General Services (DGS) can perform structural repairs, Hall devised temporary solutions with the help of the robotics team and SciMaTech students, which were implemented in anticipation of Hurricane Florence. These included placing rubber trim under each door where water was entering and piling up four feet of trash bags with sandbags in places close to the doors to create a barrier where water was stopped before it hit the doors. In the rose garden, where steps lead downward towards the doors, blocking the water with the trash bags proved successful. While the first floor still partially flooded, far less water entered the school than in the past.

“The kitchen didn’t get flooded. We made sure to tape everything down and place extra trim there,” Hall said.

The temporary solutions cannot stay in place for long-term use, however. The rubber sealants block access to the doors, and the trash bags make areas unusable. In the past, DGS tried to solve the issue by rerouting a pipe to empty in a drain in the rose garden, however, the pipe worsened the flooding as the drain quickly reached capacity and overflowed. To find a permanent solution, Hall met with the structural contractors of the building as well as DGS. Potential solutions were discussed, but it will be a while before they are implemented.

“DGS is still in the planning stages of fixing the flooding,” Hall said of the meeting.

The flooding is not limited to Wilson. Eliot-Hine Middle School had to relocate for a few days in August after heavy rains caused extensive water damage, and Anacostia High School’s cafeteria flooded multiple times last year. 

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Heavy rains exploit construction flaws; Wilson floods