UT Police Department Public Safety Officer Bob Luehr was a round-the-clock witness to historic Hurricane Harvey as it tested the flood doors and other FEMA-mandated measures installed on and around the Medical School Building following Tropical Storm Allison of 2001.
Luehr started his shift on Friday, Aug. 25, as the storm approached, and stayed in the building through Thursday, Aug. 31, working 12-hour days and sleeping first on a couch in the Leather Lounge and then on a cot under the medical school’s main stairwell. He split the time keeping watch over Harvey with William Dorsey, UTPD public safety officer, who worked the night shift.
At the height of the storm, Luehr documented 3 feet of water rising up to the Medical School Building’s front doors on Fannin with his cell phone camera and saw it rushing by on Ross Sterling. “I’ve never seen it like that,” he said.
Luehr patrolled the building during the storm as it was on controlled-access status and was shocked as the post-Allison submarine door facing Webber Plaza side started to breech, bringing in 400 gallons of rainwater to the Leather Lounge.
“James Dawn was the savior of this place – he like to run himself to death in this building and in other buildings too. He did a wonderful job,” Luehr said.
Once the water started to appear on the ground floor, Dawn, senior digital control technician with Facilities Operations, brought in a load of sandbags and built up a wall both inside and outside the building’s interior glass walls. He also helped bring in cadavers from Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center to store in the gross anatomy morgue because the hospital had run out of space.
“The only good part about being here all that time was that you could push the elevator button and it was right there – you never had to wait,” Luehr said.