Recent storm causes St. George Library to flood for the 4th time since opening in 2009

Water beneath the floor pushed the accordion door into the ceiling at the St. George Library. It is currently jammed and immovable, St. George, Utah, Aug. 25, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Joel Tucker, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The storm that swept through Washington County on Sunday night not only wreaked havoc on city streets but also flooded the St. George Library, which marks its fourth time flooding since opening in 2009.

The St. George Library basement has standing water after the storm that whipped through Washington County, St. George, Utah, Aug. 24, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Michelle Clements, St. George News

Severe damage to the basement has caused the closure of the study, conference and community rooms, as well as the MakerSpace. Efforts are being made to accommodate scheduled events by moving them to other branches of the library system.

Joel Tucker, director for the Washington County Library System, told St. George News that he is working with engineers and other experts and hopes to keep the branch open during the restoration process.

According to camera footage, the water started to enter the basement floor just after 9:45 p.m. on Sunday night, Tucker said.

“We’re not sure how it happened. The water came up underneath the floor, so some of the concrete floor is cracked and buckled up in places,” he said. “Because the floor moved, some of the internal walls moved, like our accordion door for the community room was lifted up into the ceiling, knocked down some ceiling tiles.”

In the middle of the floor where children’s programming is held, water came up through the floor, St. George, Utah, Aug. 25, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Joel Tucker, St. George News

Tucker said they have discovered a few cracks in some of the walls but nothing on external or weight bearing walls. However, with the potential for water under the building, they will continue to keep an eye on these walls.

“We pulled an engineer in to check it out and make sure that it was safe for public usage, and he said it was and it’s been cleared. We went ahead and opened yesterday, and we’re watching it.”

Tucker said this is the fourth time the St. George Library has flooded. The first time it flooded was soon after it was built. The sprinklers were left on behind the building, and the water drained into the walls. From there, they recognized that the building was at a low point, and a retention wall was built to keep the water out.

However, in 2014, the retention wall was insufficient when the library flooded the third time after water flowed down past the wall and into the cooling tower pit.

An elevator shaft, which is 4-feet deep, was filled with water after the storm, St. George, Utah, Aug. 25, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Joel Tucker, St. George News

“It filled it up like a giant swimming pool, and the door just couldn’t hold the pressure. It blew in the door to the cooling tower pit,” he said. “There was 3 feet of water in the basement.”

The flood that happened Sunday evening was not nearly as much water, Tucker said. There was about 3 inches of standing water this time as opposed to 3 feet.

“But because it came up underneath the floor and buckled some of the concrete, there’s a little bit more damage than what that third flood was,” he said.

Tucker said they will be having an engineer come to assess the building by coring down into the concrete beneath the building. Some of the issues are suspected to be the result of the French draining system beneath the library, which has a layer of rocks that helps with water drainage.

Water on the floor at the St. George Library, St. George, Utah, Aug. 24, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Michelle Clements, St. George News

“But it just got so overloaded, it had nowhere to go, so it just went up,” Tucker said. “My slab was the point of least resistance, so it just came up through the floor.”

He said the engineer will be inspecting the drainage system to make sure that it is still operating effectively. Once that determination is made, they will discern how to move forward.

Water also made its way into the elevator shafts, so the elevators were shut down on Monday but should be back up and running Tuesday. Damage to books was minimal. Some of the bottom shelving of donated books may have been affected, but most everything was up off the ground, Tucker said.

In the immediate, patrons will still have access to everything on the top two floors, including the children’s collection, the computer lab, the audio and video collection and the main collection. Children’s Story Time, Toddler Time, Art Club and Science Club will be held in the Children’s Room located on the main floor of the library. The basement is expected to be closed for about a month or two.

For more information regarding library services, please contact the St. George Library at 435-634-5737.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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