Looking Back: Frozen Pipes and Ceiling Collapses

On Jan. 5, 1992, a second set of water pipes burst between Kresge Library and Hannah Hall. This pipe burst would result in a $9,000 bill for repairs.

This fix was dubbed as the “quick fix,” because university officials learned the 22-year-old lines would cost over $700,000 to replace completely.

Late on Jan. 11, heat was restored to Kresge and Dodge. There was no information in The Oakland Post archives about whether or not the buildings remained operational between the 5 and the 11.

However, the state of Michigan had cut repair funding for the university. Three years prior to this story, the university found that there were areas of heat loss due to faulty insulation and hot water line leaks. Oakland University had to pull the money for these repairs from the general budget because the state dropped the special maintenance funding.

This specific pipe leak, however, happened on pipes that were between five and eight years away from their average lifespan. And because the parts were custom made, it would take over two months to get the pieces together to completely repair the problem.

Back in 1992, when the prospect of the $700,000 bill arose, Mark Bralton and Tim Hale, two students, pushed stranded students from the residence halls parking lot after nine inches of snow fell and closed down campus.

Their charge? $5 or a six pack of beer. There was no note if the two students were 21.

Another well-known pipe related incident happened at Oakland University in February 2015. An OU student was walking through the doors closest to the Honors College in Oak View Hall.

She noticed that the ceiling was leaking, and went on her way. About 30 seconds later, another student went to walk in and witnessed the ceiling near that door completely collapse.

“I was absolutely shocked,” the student said in an Oakland Post interview. “It occurred to me later that I actually could have been seriously injured or even killed if I was even 10 seconds quicker with all of the electrical current in the wires reacting with the water.”

The pipe in Oak View burst because of the freezing cold temperatures outside. Another pipe burst that afternoon in Dodge Hall, cancelling classes in that building for the remainder of the night.

Only a few days prior on Feb. 1, OU called a snow emergency, and all classes were cancelled.

Despite those freezing temperatures and building malfunctions on Feb. 17, 2015, when the Dodge Hall pipes burst and the Oak View ceiling collapsed, classes resumed as normal the following morning.

The Post reached out to Colleen Elsbernd, the freshman student who was only seconds away from having the ceiling collapse on her.

“It definitely does still freak me out,” she said. “I could have died or been seriously injured had I been just ten seconds quicker.”

Following the collapse, Elsbernd said that OU never reached out to her.

“Most likely because I wasn’t actually injured,” she said. “But yeah, it affected my outlook on life, definitely. In terms of my studies, it probably did indirectly affect them too.”

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