At around 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 27, a 250 year old oak tree, affectionately known as “Shady” by members of Christian Campus Fellowship (CCF), fell and struck the CCF building and two of the other buildings that comprise the Fourth Street Apartments. In addition to hitting the buildings around it, the tree brought down surrounding power lines and fell directly on top of an underground gas line on Techwood Drive.
The CCF building suffered only minor cosmetic damage to its façade. The Fourth Street Apartments that were damaged, the Stein and Goldman houses, suffered moderate exterior damage along with minor interior damage to a single room.
According to Emergency Preparedness Director Andy Altizer, by approximately 6:09 p.m. both Atlanta Fire and Rescue and Georgia Tech Police Department (GTPD) were on the scene and had completely set up an Incident Command Post. It was at this point that GTPD was notified of an “odor of gas” and immediately notified Georgia Gas Light.
As a result of the potential gas leak, crews shut off electrical power to the surrounding area, affecting several houses in the Greek community.
“Because of the worry about a possible gas leak caused by the tree, the Fire Department told us to evacuate CCF and Fourth Street,” said Dan Morrison, Director of Residence Life.
Two nearby fraternity houses, Theta Xi and Phi Kappa Sigma, were also evacuated.
Many students were upset not only because they were forced to vacate their places of residence on such short notice, but because they were not offered alternative housing for the night.
“It was interesting that this story made the AJC, but no arrangements were made for the people who were displaced, no options were given no timeline was given, and a police officer said we would get our house back in five hours, which was 2 a.m. in the morning. No notification given to anyone that we could get back in the house. We found out randomly when someone asked the police,” said Stephen Mann, third-year ISyE major.
According to housing officials, a total of 96 students living in residence halls were displaced for the night. All 96 were offered alternative housing via email. Only 22 students accepted the offered housing option.
Although Housing has frequently offered temporary housing to stranded Greek and other non-Institute students, this instance did not allow for enough time to prepare proper housing for the two fraternity houses that were displaced.
“Because I wasn’t notified that I wouldn’t be able to drive on Techwood, I was forced to park my car at Tech Square and received a $25 parking ticket,” said Jonathan Weidman, fourth-year BC major.
GTPD does several things to deal with these types of situations.
“Although we don’t issue GTENS alerts for severe thunderstorms—if we did, we would be issuing them quite regularly during the spring and summer—the campus community should always be mindful of the weather, and should even consider purchasing a weather radio or signing up for weather alerts from one of the many local news agencies, Altizer said.
Although the homeless Greek students were not able to find shelter with Housing, many fraternity houses that were not affected offered room and board to the displaced students.
“The Greek community really came together to help out those in need today,” Mann said.
By 10:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, all residents of Hayes and Fourth Street E Buildings were able to return. By 11:30 a.m. Housing gave the all clear for Stein and Golden house residents to return to their dormitories.
“We’re thankful that there were no injuries. We’re also thankful for the quick response from Atlanta Fire and Rescue and Georgia Power,” Altizer said.