December 29, 2015

Winter Storm Inflicts $2 Million in Damage on Adventist School

, recruiter and Bible/Spanish teacher at Milo Adventist Academy

A fierce winter storm followed by heavy rain has caused more than $2 million in damage to Milo Adventist Academy, a rural boarding school in the U.S. state of Oregon.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church-owned school, which was forced to close early for Christmas vacation, is scrambling to clear toppled trees, fix leaky roofs and sop up water-damaged dormitory rooms with the $1.5 million that it is collecting from insurance.

But it needs another $500,000 to deal with the damage, the vast majority of which was caused by rain-soaked snow, principal Randy Thornton said Monday.

“We’ve seen an incredible amount of rain in the last few days,” Thornton said. “The only rain I want to see in the next few weeks is the latter rain.”

No one was injured.

The winter storm blew into southern Oregon just before final exams week at Milo Adventist Academy in mid-December, cutting power to about 25,000 local homes and businesses and leaving the academy without electricity for five days.

A backup generator kept the cafeteria operational and the dormitories warm, but the rest of campus was left without light and heat. The local water treatment plant, however, only had a two-day reserve of water and could not process more until the power was restored.

So Thornton announced an early start to Christmas vacation on Dec. 14, thrilling the academy’s 92 students.

Staff members rushed to call parents and made arrangements for international students to be housed off-campus until their flights home. While some students hurriedly packed, others braved the cold to enjoy a snowball fight or build a snowman.

The blackout aside, the storm wreaked havoc across the campus. Trees collapsed under the heavy blanket of wet snow. Falling branches hit the roof of the uninsurable lodge at Camp Umpqua, the former Oregon Conference youth camp located at Milo.

Fortunately, no damage was sustained by cabins built at Camp Umpqua by Maranatha Volunteers International last summer, or to any of the other projects that the organization worked on at Milo, Thornton said.

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Winter storms have inflicted serious damage on Adventist Church-owned property before. Last winter, a two-day ice storm caused more than $300,000 in damage on Camp Hope in British Columbia, Canada.

Read Camp Hope Faces $300,000 Bill After Destructive Ice Storm

At Milo Adventist Academy, the weight of the snow on roofs and ice in the gutters caused flooding in seven buildings.

“There are at least eight rooms on the third floor that have leaking,” girls dean Kim Person said. “The girls could hear the water running between the walls.”

With the campus vacated, staff members hastily packed students’ belongings from affected rooms, labeling and moving boxes to a dry location for safekeeping during repairs.

A disaster response team surveyed the damage, wasting no time in covering the dorm roofs with tarps and setting up machines to dry out flooded buildings. Its inspection determined that 41 of the academy’s 150 dorm rooms needed repair. The refurbishment in both the boys’ and girls’ dormitories began with the removal of wet dry wall and carpeting.

Thornton said insurance would cover $1.5 million, including cleanup costs and the reconstruction of water-damaged areas such as resealing roofs on both dorms and the technology building.

“But sealing the roofs is a five- to 10-year solution,” Thornton said. “We really need to add to the insurance money to obtain a 40-year solution.”

The music building, church, administration building, gym, and cafeteria need gutters replaced to prevent further leaking, he said. Indoor repairs cannot be completed until the urgently needed gutters are installed.

“Preliminary estimates for needed cleanup and repairs not covered by insurance exceed $500,000,” said Thornton, adding that donors in the Adventist Church’s Oregon Conference have already committed nearly $100,000 toward those uncovered cleanup costs.

Volunteers who can help with drywall, roofing, or flooring would be welcomed, Thornton said.

The academy plans to reopen on Jan. 4 as scheduled. The dorm roofs cannot be sealed until rainy season is over, so the tarps will have to suffice and some students will have to be moved to undamaged rooms.

To help Milo Adventist Academy financially with the recovery process, contact Jan Thornton ([email protected]) or Aaron Nakamura ([email protected]).