Wet and Windy Start to Winter Quarter

Legs (only) reflected in puddle
First-day reflections after a week of wet weather. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Quick Summary

  • More than 70 trees lost in 10 days of wild weather
  • Grounds team gets cleanup done, storm after storm
  • Power back on at Cuarto, other residential buildings

When dozens of trees toppled on campus in wicked wind and rain over the last 10 days, crews from Grounds and Landscape Services and the Arboretum and Public Garden responded quickly to clear paths and roads and start clearing the debris.

One tree crashed into a building, putting a hole in the wall, drawing a quick response by a maintenance team that nailed a sheet of plywood over the hole. Another tree landed atop one of the campus’s Egghead sculptures, requiring extra care.

Two people walk across footbridge over the Arboretum Waterway (creek)
The Arboretum Waterway runs high under the footbridge near Wyatt Deck. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Last Sunday, when a power failure struck the Cuarto and Primero Grove residence halls and other living quarters at West Village and elsewhere, mostly in and around the north part of the campus, Student Housing and Dining Services and other campus units leapt into action to keep students safe and comfortable.

And by the time winter quarter began, Monday (Jan. 9), thanks to fast response through the week, as crews kept up with the cleanup, the campus was soggy but ready to go, save for that lingering power failure at West Village and the north part of the campus. It had been fixed Sunday, then reoccurred that night, before being fixed again Monday afternoon.

Students in Memorial Union lounge
Warming up and chilling out in the Memorial Union, one day before the start of winter quarter. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

During the outages, the campus set up several spaces where students could hang out in warmth and charge their devices. In addition, Student Housing provided glow sticks to students to help them navigate their buildings, and set up fire watches, that is, assigned staff to be alert and read to call 911 when fire alarms are not working.

Open for business

The power failures struck Shasta, Tahoe and Yosemite halls in the Cuarto Residence Area, and an apartment building, 8th & Wake, just north of the main campus; Primero Grove, Russell Park and The Atriums in the north part of the main campus; one building at The Green at West Village and The Sol apartments, also at West Village — among the small number of UC Davis-affiliated buildings that receive power from Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

UC Davis maintains its own electrical distribution system for much of the rest of the campus — a system with underground transmission lines that are generally safe from falling trees, and which came through the recent storms without an outage.

Thus, the winter quarter opened with lecture halls and classrooms warm and bright, the internet and Wi-Fi up and running, and almost all retail food and beverage locations and the Coffee House open for business.

Workers cut up eucalyptus tree lying on ground
Workers cut up the eucalyptus tree that, on its way down New Year's Eve, punched a hole in the side of Kemper Hall. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

With power restored, the Cuarto market and Sage Street Market/Café in West Village reopened today (Jan. 10), and the Cuarto Dining Commons is scheduled to reopen with breakfast on Wednesday (Jan. 11). Cuarto residents have been directed to the Segundo and Tercero DCs and Latitude as alternative places to eat.

Sunday, Unitrans added extra buses to its West Village line, ferrying residents to the warming and charging spaces on the core campus. A day later, Unitrans opened the quarter in full operation, although storm-related detours were in place around the city. Watch for updates on the Unitrans Facebook page.

“Full operation” this quarter includes expanded service as planned on the E, F and L lines, now running on a 30-minute schedule (instead of 60 minutes) for the first time since the pandemic struck in March 2020. A driver shortage necessitated the cutback, but recent additions leave Unitrans with only two lines, A and Z lines, still limited to 60-minute service.

Wild weather

The stretch of wild weather began New Year’s Eve with wind gusts topping out at 55 mph — leading to an eye-popping discovery the next morning, when an initial assessment tallied 25 trees down. That number would eventually climb to more than 60 as grounds personnel inspected the far reaches of the campus, including areas south of Interstate 80 and west of Highway 113, and as more wind came in.

A few more trees came down in subsequent days, for a grand total of 74 in the last 10 days.

Canopy of cork oak rests atop "Egghead" sculpture
The Eye on Mrak Egghead sculpture sits beneath the canopy of a cork oak that fell in the New Year’s Eve storm. This tree was one of three cork oaks that came down on the Mrak Mall. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Among the trees that toppled: three cork oaks along the Mrak Mall between Mrak Hall and Shields Library, including the one whose canopy landed atop Eye on Mrak, one of a series of Robert Arneson Egghead sculptures on campus.

The Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, caretaker of the campus’s Eggheads, plans a complete assessment of possible damage to the sculpture.

A eucalyptus crashed through the north wall of Kemper Hall, leaving an 8-foot-wide hole. Other trees, as they came down, brushed the sides of a couple of buildings, including Regan Hall in Primero Grove.

Media Resources

Dateline Staff: Dave Jones, editor, 530-752-6556, dateline@ucdavis.edu; Cody Kitaura, News and Media Relations specialist, 530-752-1932, kitaura@ucdavis.edu.

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