November 14, 2003

Wind Dis-Gusts

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Anybody notice how difficult it was to walk straight yesterday? Or maybe you noticed the bricks flying off buildings around town.

Either way, it was obvious that the weather wasn’t exactly pleasant. However, the storm went beyond just agonizing students. A large brick facade on a State Street business was knocked off, while on campus, windows were blown out of their panes in Rockefeller Hall.

In addition to these damages, Cornell’s groundskeepers erected barricades around a portion of sidewalk next to Sage Chapel, fearing that a section of roof might slide off. The overall damage was minimal, but things were aggravated by an unforgiving sky.

The Damage

The only major damage inflicted downtown took place at the Cayuga Mountain Bike Shop, which sits on the corner of Geneva and State Streets. The building began to lose its Geneva St. facade sometime around noon. Luckily, no one was injured when the bricks of the facade began to collapse onto the sidewalk below. The site was quickly barricaded by police, and the section of Geneva between Cayuga and State was closed off until around 7 p.m. Construction crews used heavy machinery to lift the piles of bricks into a dump truck until about that time, and the sidewalk on the corner remained closed into the night.

Around Cornell, winds were no less forgiving as students trampled up and down Libe Slope like lost children. Around 11:50 a.m., students in a physics section in Rockefeller Hall witnessed two windows crash to the ground outside their classroom, which faces East Avenue.

“I saw the first window fall to the ground, but I only heard the second one crash,” said Dan Carmeli ’06, a student in the physics section. “The windows fell onto the bushes, where nobody was standing, and since it was mid-class time, there was no one really around to get hurt.”

When Carmeli left his section at 12:05 p.m., he saw Cornell maintenance crews taking care of the broken glass. Closer to the Arts Quad, preventative measures were taken at Sage Chapel to avert potential injuries.

“Barricades were put up on the sidewalk underneath a section of roof that was feared may collapse,” said Pete Salino of Cornell Grounds Care.

Tompkins County saw its fair share of problems as well. Although trees were reported knocked down around the outskirts of the county, car accidents were the major problem, according to Tompkins County fire dispatcher Denny Hubbell. A number of auto rollovers were reported out past the airport, on Rt. 13 all the way to Dryden and Cortland.

Hubbell mentioned that secondary state roads were especially stricken with accidents such as Rt. 34 by Newfield and 96 near Trumansburg. Most of the affected drivers walked away from their accidents unscathed.

Windy Words

The responses of students to the storm were pretty consistent across campus; basically, no one was pleased.

“At first the wind didn’t seem that bad,” said Shannon Michaels ’05, “but then I almost got blown over!”

Natalie Neuman ’04 remembers thinking that “the wind I felt was like God telling me I should have gone to UCLA.”

On his way to Collegetown, Josh Resnick ’04 described the temperature as “witch-teat cold.”

In response to the freezing conditions, Cory Emil ’05 went home “and sat in front of the wall, pretending it was a fireplace.”

A disgruntled Justin Berkowitz ’05 could tell it was chilly without a thermometer.

“I knew it was cold when I saw that the line of North Face-clad customers waiting for coffee at Olin Cafe strutted into the lobby,” he said.

Why the Weather

Yesterday was not the first time Ithaca has been subjected to high winds. In fact, just last week, a similarly developed storm system brought lots of rain and gusty winds. However, seldom do storms erupt like this one. As we move into the winter season, our temperatures are going through major changes. Instead of receiving our air from the warm, moist south, we are beginning to see a shift (like every autumn) to winds coming from the cold, dry northwest (Canada). This temperature gradient explains why we’ve lately seen a huge fluctuation in temperatures every few days. Fellow meteorologist Anthony Santorelli ’05 noted that besides the temperature gradient, a huge pressure gradient existed around the low-pressure system that moved through our area. A pressure gradient is an area of the atmosphere that has differences in pressure. The bigger the differences, the windier the conditions on the surface below. It was the destructive combination of the two gradients which led to perhaps the worst storm system to strike Ithaca yet this year.

Archived article by Adam Daum