When the west fork of the San Jacinto River broke its banks, it swept onto Lone Star College’s Kingwood campus. Now a chain link fence blocks off most of the tree-lined property, along with the six of the nine buildings that took on water.

“They not only flooded with river water, but also with raw sewage from the treatment plant that’s just down the street,” says LSC Kingwood president Dr. Katherine Persson, who found out about the flood in a 2:30 a.m. phone call on Aug. 29.

Just more than a week after the flood, giant pumps are set up all over the campus. They’re clearing out putrid air after that sewage-filled mix sat in the buildings for days. Alongside the pumps, a crew of about 250 is working day and night to clean everything else.

“There’s just not much sleep,” Persson says, quickly adding, “There’s no use crying over spilled milk.”

The goal of the massive effort underway is to get the spaces back open for students as soon as possible. That involves removing any equipment that could be salvaged, such as mannequins from the health sciences building, and drying out books from the library. Since the college’s 13,000 students can’t come to class, staff is working to bring classes to them.

TAKE A TOUR: Brandi Smith walks the Lone Star College Kingwood campus

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“The logistics of trying to get back online involve 1275 class sections that were over 90 percent capacity, full of students,” says Persson. “Only about 400 of those already had online or hybrid formats.”

All told, Persson estimates cleanup and reconstruction will total more than $10 million. The Lone Star College system’s insurance will cover some of that, she says.

“We know that we have a challenge, but I’ve got great people,” she says. “We’re working the problem.”

At this point, there’s no firm timeline for when students will return to these buildings.