Planet Princeton

Princeton High School Floods Again

Water rushes down the steps at the performing arts center at Princeton High on Saturday afternoon. Photo: Steve Hiltner.
Water rushes down the steps at the performing arts center at Princeton High on Saturday afternoon. Photo: Steve Hiltner.

The orchestra pit at the performing arts center at Princeton High School and the boiler room flooded again Saturday during the storm.

“Members of our buildings and grounds crew were in yesterday during the storm and in the aftermath. Working with a restoration company funded through our insurance company, they were able to pump out most of the water and begin cleaning up,” Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane said. “We are still in the process of assessing any damage to equipment.”

Cochrane said school officials will be consulting with the town to find a solution that will mitigate this issue in the future. Cochrane said it is his understanding that some corrections to the area were made last time the problem occurred.

The last time the performing arts center flooded was during Hurricane Irene. It also flooded two years prior to that during Hurricane Bill. The stage floor became warped and had to be replaced.

Steve Hiltner has written numerous posts on the issue over the last several years on his Princeton Nature Notes blog. He also reached out to town officials and school officials about the issue several times from 2009 to 2015 and said he never received a response.

Hiltner took several photos and the video below on Saturday. He also called 911 after seeing water going in the building. He explains how the flooding happens due to a poorly designed system on his blog: “A retention basin is surrounded on three sides by the high school and receives runoff from the high school roofs and also from nearby parking lots. The basin in turn drains into the system of storm water pipes underneath Walnut Street,” he writes. “If it rains long enough and hard enough, however, the street’s underground storm drain system becomes filled to the brim, water has nowhere to go, and the basin overflows. At that point, pipes no longer matter and surface flow dictates where floodwater goes. Since water flows downhill, the only way to get rid of the water is for it to flow out to Walnut Street and safely away from the building. Unfortunately, Walnut Street is higher than the high school doorway thresholds. In these heavy rains, Walnut Street floods and becomes a river, and storm water actually flows towards the high school rather than away.”

The school was renovated and the performing arts center was built as part of an $86 million bond referendum.

IMG_5057
Water makes its way inside Princeton High School Saturday. Photo: Steve Hiltner.
Water makes its way inside Princeton High School Saturday. Photo: Steve Hiltner.
Walnut Street on Saturday afternoon. Photo: Steve Hiltner.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

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