Windstorm damage hits home: For students whose houses damaged in windstorm, crisis not over

Screen Shot 2015-12-12 at 7.22.07 PM Winds just below hurricane level, at 71 mph, swept through the Whitworth community Nov. 17 as students rushed to find shelter on and off campus. The windstorm caused trees to fall in the loop and on power lines, homes and buildings all over Spokane. A total of 90 trees fell on campus and damaged four buildings.

Senior Niehls Ingram was one of several students whose house was damaged during the storm. His was hit by a tree that fell through the roof and into his room.

“I was at my girlfriend’s house and my housemate called me, he sounded really worried,” Ingram said. “I was pretty sure I knew what happened and then he told me that a tree had fallen on our house.”

Ingram and his housemates talked to their landlady after their house was hit by a tree, which dumped insulation into the house and damaged the roof and ceiling.

“She said we couldn’t stay in the house, so I stayed at a friend’s house,” Ingram said. “They didn’t have power but that was okay.”

Ingram’s landlady told him and his roommates that the repairs on their house would not be completed until January. However, she allowed Ingram and his housemates to break the lease early on the damaged house, which allowed them to look for another place to live, Ingram said.

“Luckily, we found a newly renovated house and moved in,” Ingram said. “We didn’t get power until the day before Thanksgiving but we had a place to live.”

Junior Ashley Fitzgerald, a theme house resident, was working at an elementary school during the beginning of the windstorm. She stayed at work longer than usual to make sure that all the children got home. After work, a friend called her and told her that a tree had fallen near her house, Fitzgerald said.

“So, I left work and it usually takes me 10 to 15 minutes to get back on campus,” Fitzgerald said. “That day it took me 45 minutes.”

Fitzgerald’s house was not accessible at all during the day of the windstorm. After getting on campus she went to McMillan Hall and stayed there for most of the storm, Fitzgerald said.

“I told my housemate not to go to the house because it wasn’t safe,” Fitzgerald said. “Plus, I didn’t want to stay there because it was scary. There were power lines that had fallen and I just didn’t feel comfortable being in the house.”

Fitzgerald’s friends invited her into their home to stay over the next couple of days. The next couple of days were rough, Fitzgerald said.

The aftermath of the storm felt chaotic and hectic, Ingram said.

“It’s hard for me to rely on other people but considering the circumstances, I had to,” Ingram said. “After we found our new place, we got settled in and everything calmed down.”

Professors were really understanding of circumstances, especially considering that most of her assignments are online, Fitzgerald said.

“I don’t think we should have had classes that Thursday,” Fitzgerald said. “Who can even focus when all of that’s going on? I don’t think everyone was ready, especially the on-campus people who had to move to other dorms.”

Overall, the Whitworth community responded very well to the windstorm and taking care of students, Fitzgerald said.

“If there was one thing I learned it was that I wished I had renter’s insurance. I learned that the hard way,” Ingram said.



Krystiana Morales

Staff Writer

Contact Krystiana Morales at

They’re going down, we’re yelling timber

The recent windstorm sent trees falling all around Whitworth, especially in the Loop.

Whitworth is ranked 20th in beauty for Christian campuses across the globe, according to Christian Universities Online. The campus has a grounds crew that helps maintain this standard through upkeep of the campus.


However, the unnatural growing conditions associated with this upkeep may have altered how the trees grow.

Some trees may have needed to be removed but were kept for their beauty. Others didn’t grow the way they needed to because of the sandy soil underneath much of Whitworth, university arborist Will Mellott said.

“Because of the soil, the trees’ roots can’t grow down, but have to grow out to reach water,” Mellott said. “This means that the roots are shallower and don’t provide as much support.”

Normally roots can extend out in equal proportion to the tree’s height in order to reach these nutrients. Because of the proximity of the trees they begin grafting which causes them to fall together, Mellott said.

Last year Whitworth experienced two small storms that uplifted almost 100 trees on campus. Because those trees fell, it left previously protected trees open to nature’s forces, Mellott said. Many of the trees that fell last summer had grafted roots, which caused them to fall in groups.

Mellott attributes the amount of trees that fell this year to the fact that this protection was gone.

It was those combined forces, along with the force of mother nature that ultimately caused the trees to fall.

“It is a combination of a bunch of factors, “ Mellott said. “Part of it is an action of God. Everything on this earth evolves and dies, and this is the way that the trees followed this course.”

Instead of looking at the destruction, he urges students to examine the future.

“This is an evolving landscape. As caretakers for God we are called to watch over them, but we can’t worship the creation,” Mellott said. “Just because the trees fell, doesn’t mean our responsibility to maintaining nature is over. Now we look to the future student and plant more other trees that do fit this system and follow the natural evolution.”


Parker Postlewait

Staff Writer

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After storm hit, many students forced out of dorms in search of power

Due to the aftermath of the most damaging windstorm to hit Whitworth’s campus, 650 students were evacuated from their dorms.


Classes were cancelled for two days in order to deal with the damage and power loss. The university lost 126 trees during the storm, including several power lines that left many students without power for days, according to last Wednesday’s ASWU meeting.

“I live in Warren and during the windstorm, a bunch of us in Warren were like watching the trees fall back and forth,” freshman Jesse Domingo said. “And it was kind of like we were just watching our whole campus be destroyed, which was sad, but entertaining at the same time.”


When the storm first began, students were kept updated through the blue light speakers and emergency response text messages and emails.

The first text message to be received by students, at 12:12 p.m. on Tuesday read, “Whitworth Alert: is is not a drill. Because of a fallen tree and high wind in the area, please evacuate the loop area. Use caution if outside or driving.”

A text message requested that students go immediately to their place of residence and take shelter until further notice was received by students at 12:37 p.m.

Cowles Memorial Library, Hawthorne Hall and the Lindaman Center were hit by trees and to deal with the logistical and safety issues of having students living in powerless dorms, the school evacuated hundreds of students into residence halls with power or houses off campus.

“For the rst time in my presidency, I cancelled classes, and we began the clean-up,” President Beck Taylor said in the December issue of the Mind and Heart newsletter. “Power was restored to campus late Wednesday night, after we’d moved 600 students to warmer dorms, not wanting them to spend another powerless, cold night in dark residence halls.”

In order to accommodate the influx of fleeing students, mattresses from powerless dorms were moved to provide sleeping arrangements for displaced students.

“That was when it stopped being fun,” freshman Elisah Winnika said. “I was kind of like, ‘Oh this is kind of like exciting!’ and then it was like ‘Now you have to move out of your dorms.’ And I was like ‘Okay. is is not exciting. is is stupid and annoying.’”

All classes resumed on Thursday, Nov. 19, leaving many students upset. Some students said they did not feel this was the right call on the university’s part.

“I was upset that classes were held so soon after the storm,” freshman Paige Rohrbach said. “I feel like whomever was deciding to make us go back thought it would get us back into the swing of things faster but I feel like it put unneeded worries on all of the students.”

“Students might be disappointed that we’re attempting to get back to some sense of normalcy, but we think it’s best to continue the educational programs to the extent we can,” Taylor said in a Nov. 18 Facebook post.

ASWU President Justin Botejue and Executive Vice President Chase Weholt brought snacks to displaced residents the night they had to evacuate from their residence halls. Botejue said that he disagreed with the university’s decision to resume classes Thursday.

“Though I understand why administration would like to have classes the day after our windstorm, I would like to advocate on behalf of all students,” Botejue said. “I would like to say that for their common good, we should have postponed classes until Friday just to give us a little bit more time to adjust, and professors as well.”

In order to help off-campus students affected by the power loss, Sodexo provided free meals for three days for faculty, staff and students.


Emily Goodell

Staff Writer

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