Maintenance crews worked furiously Wednesday (May 16) at the University of Notre Dame, where straight line winds that hit theSouth Bendarea late Tuesday afternoon caused some of the worst storm damage in decades, days before the Universitys Commencement exercises. **
The spire on the southwest corner of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, along with bricks and mortar, was blown to the ground, and two stained-glass windows on the west side of the church were damaged when a four-story pine tree snapped near the top and crashed into the side of the building.
In addition, 30 trees are down or damaged so severely that they will have to be taken down23 on the North Quad and seven near the Grotto.
“Considering the number of trees completely destroyed, this is probably the worst,said superintendent of landscape services William Thistlethwaite, who has worked at Notre Dame for 29 years.It was among the three worst storms I’ve witnessed in terms of overall tree damage on campus.
Tree damage around the Grotto is some of the worst on campus, with entire trees, some more than 100 years old, and many large limbs strewn around the sacred space.Remarkably, however, not a single candle was broken.
Much already has been cleared away in the area nearest the Grotto, where a large chunk of a tree just south of the shrine was split and fell near the gated area. Today, while chainsaws buzzed, workers also were busy on smaller details of the massive clean-up project, including using brooms to sweep a green carpet of leaves into tidy piles to be hauled away.
On the North Quad, trees were leveled in a complete circle surrounding the Clarke Memorial Fountain on the Fieldhouse Mall, and large limbs were down all along the west side of Breen-Phillips and Farley Halls.Trees also were damaged on the Main Quad and in other areas of campus.
Thistlethwaite said he anticipates having the campus cleaned up by Friday at the latest, just before families arrive for Commencement weekend.
No injuries were caused by the winds, and there is no evidence that a tornado touched down on University property, according to Notre Dame officials who were on campus when the storm hit.
Crews will use a crane to evaluate the spot where the downed spire stood on the Basilica and try to assess what needs to be done, but currently there is no cost estimate for repairing the spire and broken windows, as well as other cleanup.
In spring of 1962, a small tornado hit Notre Dame, sucking trees out of the ground and causing damage to several buildings on campus.A few minor injuries were reported, including to one student who suffered a mild concussion and construction workers who sustained fractures to their hands when they were blown off scaffolding for the new library.
This most recent event, however, always will be remembered by a group of students and University officials who gathered in disbelief around the downed Basilica spire after the storm.Many, who likely never thought they would claim such a piece of Notre Dame, walked away carrying bricks from the historic spiritual and architectural landmark.