Tropical Storm Eta floods West Broward Campus

West Broward High School undergoes major renovations in preparation for the school’s reopening.

by Armani Brutus and Nicolas Gallon

A FLOODED DOMAIN: Driveways and parking lots in front of West Broward High School overflow with excessive amounts of water left behind by tropical storm Eta. When the flood from Eta struck West Broward, the damage caused by the water was far worse compared to other schools in Broward county, forcing West Broward to close off it’s in-person learning system past the one week return period.

On Oct. 13, teachers were able to greet students once again on campus after being in quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with the mass flooding caused by tropical storm Eta, schools all across Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) were forced to close down campus for a full week. The extensive damages done to West Broward High School would eventually delay the return to campus until after the holiday break.

Eta was announced to be a tropical storm on Oct. 31, and hit on Nov. 8. Producing more than 20 inches of rain from the storm and leaving behind 18 inches of rain in Pembroke Pines.  The entire first level of West Broward High School was flooded. 56 percent of Broward County was also affected heavily by the flooding during this Tropical storm. The flooding and water damage were seen  all throughout Broward County, and all schools were forced to close down campus and return to the E-learning system that was seen at the beginning of the year. E-learning was expected to last a week before schools opened up campus to welcome faculty and students. Unlike other schools, West Broward’s campus was closed down until Jan. 4. Renovations will continue until all repairs to the campus have been made. 

  “It is sad to walk in there,” said Registrar Janet Zapata. “I have been at West Broward since it opened up in 2008, so I consider myself an original. Being on campus for so many years, it was sad to see the devastation that you walk and see all the damage on campus.” 

Offices all across the school were severely affected. The majority of the rooms located in the main office at the front of the school received heavy damage and destruction.  The school is replacing all the carpet set in the main offices with brand new tiles, with new doors and frames being put in as well. Numerous rooms currently have boxes filled with important papers and files to prevent them from getting wet or damaged from the moisture of excess water that remains.

  “A lot of cleanup had to be done. It was hard,” Zapata said. “We never expected the damage to happen because our offices are inside the building, so we were surprised that the water seeped inside it.”

   The media center suffered the least amount of damage out of the entire first floor in the school, due to the flooring having a high quality that ended up being resistant enough to withstand the vast amount of water that entered the building.

“The media center right now is currently the room out of the entire school that suffered the least amount of damage,” said Vice Principal Frank Jones. “We lost a lot of books but somehow that flooring that we have here  is a very high quality so it withstood potential water damage and the flooding overall. Right now the media center is where the main office and guidance counseling area are placed for now.”

WRAPPING UP THE PAPER: West Broward Registrar Janet Zapata lays out damped files from across the school inside the Media Center in an attempt to dry them out. Because several offices and rooms were impacted by the flood, everyone inside the main office and guidance counseling area were forced to be placed inside the media center until further repairs. Photo by Gary Dolhon

West Broward High school suffered damage on the first floor, causing floor boards to rise and carpets across the floor to reek. Due to the mass amounts of water rushing in, doors began to rot at the base, and the carpets needed to be replaced with new tile. Face-to-face learning for West Broward was put off once again until the damages to the school are repaired. 

“Since we were already prepared to teach and work at home, it was an easier transition to go back to that,” said General Clerk of West Broward Guidance Department Claire Gallagher. “I think it was another tough thing to handle but I also think the administration, the teachers and the students all went with the flow and have been really good at adapting to different situations that come up.”

HARD WORKERS: District workers used Carpet Removal equipment to scrape off any areas with damaged carpets by the flood in order to then replace it with brand new flooring. When the flood caused by tropical storm Eta hit West Broward High School, it led to several hallways, rooms and offices with carpets inside to reek and soak up water that was left behind, calling for custodians at the school to come in and remove it with special equipment. Photos by Gary Dolhon

The damages to West Broward High extends from the front of the school all the way to the back on the first floor. Considerable damage was done to the gym and the music room. After attempting to dry it out altogether, the school was to replace the carpet with brand new flooring. In the back of the school, the chorus room was one of the areas where lots of carpet had to be removed and be replaced with new flooring. Some of the walls inside the music room were also damaged and had to be repaired alongside the carpets. Inside the gym was where most of the damage took place. Since the entire area caught water from the flood, the school had to replace all of the floorboards inside in order to fix all of the flooring.

“We went back on campus to clean up our desks and remove everything on the top of our desks,” Gallagher said. “I work in the main building and there was carpeting on the floor and so by the time I went back to clean up the desks the water had receded so I am not sure how much of the floor was covered but enough so that they are going to rip the carpet out.”

TROPICAL STORM ETA: Carpets inside West Broward’s band room were removed due to the smell and damage of water from the flood soaking the walls and carpets inside. Brand new carpeting was placed just in time for the beginning of classes and band rehearsals. Photos by Gary Dolhon

West Broward High School is getting fixed and prepared for facilities and students to return by the end of Winter Break for Broward County. The gym’s floorboards that were buckled up from when the storm initially hit and flooded the surrounding area are being replaced, and it will not be available for use for several months  The torn out carpet from the music room and offices in the guidance room at the front of the school has been replaced with new tile flooring, and the door frames from the affected rooms have been replaced. Walls are being cut apart to replace the insulation and drywall that were damaged. Dryers and fans are placed around the school to help with the moisture trapped in the walls of the first floor. 

“As of right now in the music rooms, the carpets are damaged and some of the walls are damaged but they are replacing the carpets inside the rooms,” said Building Supervisor Humberto Serrano. “The Gym is where we have the biggest damages in the school because it needs to be replaced by floor since a lot of the floorboards were damaged by the storm.

  Our school’s staff and  administration are working hard with cleaning up the school every day to get our facilities and students back to school for the coming new year. Using dryers, replacing flooring and getting new door frames, district workers, administration and West Broward’s maintenance staff led by head custodian, Humberto Serrano, have been working every day in preparation for a Jan. 4 opening. 

“Well the official date that we’re shooting for is when we return from winter break,” Jones said. “We’re going to work hard to make that happen, I mean there are workers here everyday and the only people here are Administration and we’ll have a clerical here and there.”

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