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Lyons Hall, other buildings damaged in Blizzard of 2022

Updated: Jan 11, 2023

Multiple buildings at Canisius College sustained damage in the course of the winter blizzard that blitzed Buffalo in late December 2022.

In a statement released to News 4 reporter Adam Duke on December 27, college officials first reported damage to Lyons Hall. In addition to closing Lyons Hall, the college announced in a December 30 email to faculty and students that access to the Palisano Pavilion and the Koessler Athletic Center is also prohibited.

The closure of the Koessler Athletic Center immediately affected Canisius's men's basketball team. Both of their early January home games were moved to Niagara University. A joint statement by Canisius, Niagara and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference said the moves were made due to "continuing clean-up efforts in and around Canisius' campus." Additionally, a Canisius swimming and diving team source told The Griffin that a pipe had burst in the Koessler Athletic Center's pool room, forcing the team to find a new practice location.

The first floor of the Palisano Pavilion seen from outside on January 2. (Patrick Healy)

The first floor of the Palisano Pavilion, a workout space for students, was damaged. A sign posted on its doors warned that "Entering this building at this time is strictly prohibited (FOR ANY REASON) for all non-emergency personnel. Due to ongoing assessment of hazardous conditions anyone entering will be reported to administrations and written up for trespassing."

The Friday email to Canisius faculty and students stated that “the blizzard caused extensive damage to several buildings that impacted electrical, plumbing, mechanical and ITS systems.” News 4’s Aidan Joly reported that there was a “‘disaster recovery team’ truck in front of” Lyons Hall on December 30. A Canisius professor who was in the Lyons Hall parking lot the same day emphasized to The Griffin that “the damage [to Lyons Hall] is extensive.”

Lyons Hall, formerly home to Mount St. Joseph Academy, was part of a parcel purchased by Canisius in July 2006 for $1.65 million. Its first and second floor hosts the college's admissions, alumni engagement, communications and enrollment management administrative offices as well as Marie Maday Theatre, the venue for theatrical and musical performances by Canisius student organizations. Its second, third and fourth floors are home to Canisius's communications, digital media arts, fine arts, marketing and political science academic departments.

The north side of Lyons Hall on January 2. (Patrick Healy)

Vehicles from Sunbelt Rentals, a West Seneca-based equipment rental company, are parked on the north, east, and south sides of Lyons Hall. Tubes from each are attached to windows on the first, second and third floors, respectively.

The institutional advancement office illustrates damage done to the first floor of Lyons Hall. (Patrick Healy)

The college confirmed to News 4's Duke and Joly on Monday, January 2 that "multiple pipes had burst on the building’s third floor, which caused water damage to all of the floors below." This includes the basement, according to a source who also told Duke and Joly that likely consequences for Lyons Hall included removal of all plaster and drywall, replacement of all computers, treatment for mold and reassessment of its plumbing and heating systems. The source said the college and its insurance company are still assessing damages.

According to News 4's Duke, Canisius is "currently addressing classroom assignments for the Spring semester." Per an internal class calendar accessed by The Griffin, Lyons Hall is scheduled to host 45 undergraduate courses during the spring 2023 semester: about three dozen on the third floor and half a dozen on both the first and fourth floors.

The first floor of Dugan Hall on January 2. (Patrick Healy)

A Dugan Hall resident told The Griffin that their floor sustained some damage. The ceiling of the first floor of the upperclassman residence hall was also visibly damaged. The damage and the cleanup equipment used appears similar to that in the first floor of Palisano. Canisius has not reported damage to residence halls publicly or to the student body.

In the December 30 email that was the first official notice about the damages sent to faculty and students, Canisius administrators announced several policies that will curb access to campus. Only “essential personnel in Facilities, ITS and Public Safety” as well as “select students who were previously approved to reside in campus residence halls during the holiday break” are allowed on campus.

Campus is closed through January 6. Administrative offices will work remotely from January 3 to 6, and access to any building must be approved by the relevant vice president and registered with Public Safety.

The college promised to send another update during the week of January 2 as it works to restore operations in advance of the Tuesday, January 17 beginning of the spring semester.

Update January 6 11:00 A.M.

President Steve Stoute released a video message update hailing the efforts of Canisius employees who opened the college's doors to Buffalonians during the blizzard, calling the blizzard a "test" from God and providing a brief update on damage to Lyons Hall.

After emphasizing his sorrow for the many lives lost in Buffalo during the blizzard, Stoute acknowledged that "the blizzard also stretched the limits of our physical plant on campus beyond capacity, resulting in significant damage to Lyons Hall.” Shutting down speculation of a delayed start to the semester, he added that "spring semester classes will begin on schedule on Tuesday, January 17, and will be held in person or in the modality that was previously planned.”

Further, the president announced that “faculty and staff can return to work, on campus, beginning Monday, January 9. . . . The damage to Lyons Hall continues to be assessed, and work in that building will be ongoing for the foreseeable future. For those individuals with offices in Lyons Hall, your vice president will provide you with information about temporary office space and retrieval of personal belongings."

Stoute concluded by recalling his depiction of the blizzard as a divine examination: "Do not be unnerved by this test. Know that our character is strong and together we will pass this test and emerge better than ever before." The 2 minute, 53 second video statement was emailed to faculty, students, and parents of undergraduate students and can be accessed here.

Update January 11 11:00 P.M.

Lyons Hall is officially closed for the semester, according to internal memos including an email sent to Canisius political science majors. Political science professors' offices have been relocated to the sixth floor of Churchill Tower, the home of the history department's offices. All political science classes, which are normally held in Lyons Hall, will instead be held in Old Main.

The Canisius department of Business and Finance announced today that the admissions office, typically housed on the first floor of Lyons Hall, has been temporarily moved to Science Hall. 11 parking spaces will be reserved for prospective students.

This story will be updated as more information is gathered.

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