The Bad News:
On September 11, 2017, the University of Georgia’s Marine Institute was flooded by storm surge caused by Hurricane Irma. Three-quarters of all the buildings on the campus were affected (16 buildings and several small out-buildings), including research laboratories, teaching facilities, dormitories, faculty/staff housing, administrative offices, Facilities Maintenance shops, the small boat hoist, and dining facilities. The depths of floodwaters inside buildings ranged from one inch to one foot. This seawater flooding damaged or destroyed flooring material, cabinetry, interior sheetrock wallboard, low-lying electrical outlets, furniture, and laboratory & office equipment. (See earlier post on Hurricane Irma damage.)
The core campus buildings at the University of Georgia Marine Institute were built in the mid-1930s. These buildings were originally part of a livestock farm operation built by R.J. Reynolds, Jr. (Reynolds established the UGA Marine Institute and converted the buildings to meet the needs of the scientists in 1953). Since the time that these buildings were constructed, sea level on the Georgia Coast has increased approximately 10 inches. This is the first time that buildings on the UGAMI campus have been damaged by flooding.
Hurricane Irma caused a major disruption to UGAMI’s research and education work. Many of the Institute’s 21 permanent staff members have been displaced from their offices, laboratories, and workshops (for 150 days and counting, as of this writing). Four temporary office trailers were brought to the UGAMI campus by barge to accommodate the administrative staff. In addition to the permanent staff that were displaced, research and education programs have been interrupted. Each year, dozens of research scientists and 600-700 students come to UGAMI to study coastal ecosystems. Fall is the busiest time of year for class visits. In 2017, UGAMI was essentially closed to visiting class groups for the entire fall semester.
The Good News:
UGAMI is getting back on its feet. In late December, 50% of UGAMI’s student housing was re-opened, allowing a partial restoration of its educational programs (The other 50% of student housing units remain unavailable to students because they are occupied by construction crews who are performing storm restoration work on campus.). Staff/faculty housing in Shell Hammock has been restored and the seawater lab is back up and running. The teaching lab and visitors’ labs are nearing completion. Restoration work of all buildings, except for the administration office building and Carriage Building, should be completed within the next month.
See photos of Hurricane Irma Restoration work Here.