For the first time since March 1994, Ithaca College closed its campus and canceled all classes yesterday because of weather.
The decision to close the campus was made because the forecast called for the heaviest snowfall during the day yesterday, said Dave Maley, associate director of media relations.
Rather than having students and employees commute from off-campus locations and risk dangerous travels, the college closed early in the morning, he said.
“The decision was made to close and not open at all today so we didn’t get into a situation where we had people come in and then close anyway,” Maley said.
Ithaca Mayor Carolyn Peterson declared a snow emergency at 5 p.m. Tuesday, which was still in effect last night. Travel advisories were also issued for the city of Ithaca, warning against nonessential travel.
According to the National Weather Service, upward of 20 inches of snow were expected between Tuesday night and early this morning. A heavy snow warning was in effect for Tompkins, Yates, Seneca, Southern Cayuga, Steuben, Schuyler and Chemung counties through 10 p.m. yesterday.
Winds between 10 and 20 mph and gusts of up to 30 mph were expected to drop temperatures to as low as 15 degrees below zero.
While the heavy snowfall was expected to end late last night, scattered snow showers will continue into this morning, according to the National Weather Service.
Cornell University closed its campus at 12:30 p.m. yesterday as a result of increasingly heavy snowfall. TCAT buses maintained their normal routes and schedules through early last night.
According to Maley, closing the college yesterday will not affect the academic calendar for the spring semester. He also said as of last night, he was unsure of whether the college would resume its normal schedule today.
“[Yesterday] morning I began relaying the information to the media about our closing at just before 5:30 [a.m.],” Maley said. “We’ll [announce a closing] as early as possible, but not prematurely.”
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The last time the college closed its campus was more than 10 years ago, according to Maley. Unlike yesterday, the county shut down all its roads, forcing the college to close its campus, as well. As of yesterday afternoon, the county had not shut down any roads.
While students had the day off from classes, essential employees, including staff members of all dining halls, the Health Center, the Physical Plant and Residential Life, had to brave near-blizzard conditions in order to get to the campus. Mary Kranz, the supervisor of nurses at the Hammond Health Center, said it was important for the college to maintain a residential atmosphere in the midst of the storm.
“Ithaca College prides itself on being a residential college,” Kranz said. “If they’re going to have kids living here on campus and encouraging that, then we need to provide the services so that they have them when they’re here.”
Investigator Tom Dunn began his shift at 3 p.m. yesterday. He said the inordinate amount of snow led to a slight increase in calls.
“It was busier than your average day,” Dunn said. “We had some slips and falls, some accidents with people and their snowboards, another person was injured playing football — just a number of outdoor activity injuries.”
Kranz said the winter weather usually leads to more student injuries and illnesses.
“When it starts to get snowy out there’s a lot of snowboarding and sledding and kids jumping around,” she said. “But there’s been a lot of flu on campus, so we’ve seen flu-like symptoms and colds.”
According to Kranz, the Health Center staff met Tuesday to devise a plan that accounted for traveling in the heavy snow. The workers in closest proximity to the college were selected to work if the college closed.
With most students enjoying the day by staying warm indoors, a number of students could be seen enjoying the snow. A group of four students created a makeshift snowboarding hill out of a 15-foot high snow bank outside the Campus Center, extending down to the handicapped railing by the Center for Natural
Sciences, and grinded by the more skilled snowboarders. Random groups of students could be seen playing football on the quads or outside the Fitness Center.
Whether or not the college is closed today, Kranz won’t have to worry about commuting.
“I’m going to stay here overnight,” Kranz said. “The great thing about the Health Center is that we have beds.”