March 7, 2011

Cornell Delays Monday’s Opening After Snowstorm

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After an estimated 15 inches of snow blanketed Tompkins County Monday morning, Cornell students awoke to find their classes cancelled, their cars buried and their beds suddenly much more comfortable.

The University closed early Monday after the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for Tompkins County. The University reopened at 11:45 a.m. and classes resumed at 12:20 p.m.

TCAT buses suspended their operations after Tompkins County officials announced roads in the county would be closed until 8:30 a.m. Buses largely returned to their normal routes Monday afternoon.

Ray Benjamin, assistant superintendent for streets and facilities in the city of Ithaca, said he and the workers in his department are “getting pretty darned tired of this stuff.”

“We’ve been going 24-7 since yesterday morning eight o’clock when it began to turn to ice,” Benjamin said to a reporter on Monday. “I would talk to you, but I got a guy out on the street and he needs a hand.”

Prof. Mark Wysocki, earth and atmospheric sciences and a meteorologist at Cornell’s Northeast Regional Climate Center, said this year’s snowfall had broken records along the I-95 corridor.

He attributed the high levels of snow to cyclical changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation — differences in atmospheric pressures at sea level. Because the NAO is in a weak period, winds along the Northeast are weak, and therefore storms that are usually pushed out of certain regions linger and create more precipitation, he said. This was the case in Ithaca Monday, he said.

Snowfall in Ithaca could reach record levels this year, “but we would need a few more storms,” Wysocki said.

The first inclement weather statement, issued early Monday morning, announced that the University would reopen at 9:30 a.m., with classes resuming at 10:10 am. However, a second statement pushed the opening back to 11:45 a.m.

While the reissued statement had little impact on students, some professors said they were already on their way to work when the second statement was released.

Prof. Cindy Van Es, applied economics and management, said that while she had no problem getting to her 1:25 p.m. class, she knew of “several administrators who live over an hour away who were affected by the change in the delay time.”

Van Es said she did not see a significant difference in the number of students who attended her class on Monday.

Though manageable, getting to afternoon classes proved to be a source of comic relief for many students. Miles Pedrone ’14 recounted watching a fellow student try to jump a snow bank on North Campus.

“It was like he had just seen snow for the first time,” Pedrone said. “He took a running leap and then just looked lost and confused as he tried to follow another person’s footprints.”

Multiple other students reported seeing their peers slip on the steps of the TCAT bus and fall face-first into the snow.

“Normally I just watch people slip on the ice from my dorm room,” Tara Azamian ’14 said. “But today it was just people getting stuck, not as much falling, unfortunately.”

One of those students, Cynthia Cohen ’13, said she “literally wiped out” in front of Flora Rose on West Campus.

“Cornell has done nothing about the sheet of ice known as West Campus,” she said.

Adriana Wong ’14 said she was disappointed by the number of collapsing Cornellians she saw Monday.

“I usually stay on the lookout for people wiping out, but I think I missed a fair share of them because I was locked up indoors,” Wong said.

Still, Wong said she was upset with the University’s snow removal.

“I pay way too much tuition at this school to be swimming through three feet of snow all the way to Central [Campus],” she said.

Others were glad that the University attempted to minimize such mishaps.

“I’m glad to know the administration took preventive measures to protect students from inevitably funny, embarrassing and painful falls across campus,” Wandi Maricel ’13 said.

Even buses and cars, normally the go-to mode of transportation in bad weather, did not stand a chance in the storm.

Alyssa Leventhal ’14 said she was surprised after seeing “a truck trying to deliver food to RPCC get stuck in the driveway.”

Some students said their travel plans were ruined by the snowstorm.

Janna Scheier, a sophomore at Belmont University, had planned to fly home Monday after visiting her friend Alexa Hilmer ’13 this weekend.

Yet when Hilmer and Scheier woke up, Hilmer’s car was hidden in an un-plowed driveway, the local taxi companies said they could not offer rides and the TCAT buses had been cancelled, Scheier said.

Luckily, “a man from the airport” arrived in his personal four-wheel-drive truck, picked the students up on North Campus and drove them to the Ithaca airport, nearly hitting stray freshmen wandering through the snow-coated streets, according to Scheier.

Although Scheier arrived in time for her flight, after several delays it was cancelled, stranding her in Ithaca.

“I was all excited to go home to see my family because I haven’t been in three months, but my plan was foiled by the snowpocalypse,” Scheier said. She added that when Belmont, which is in Nashville, Tenn., got an inch of snow, “everyone freaked out and they canceled school.”

“Maybe I’ll come back when it’s not so snowy,” she said.

For Scott Bergman ’13, the snowstorm turned a five-hour trip back to campus into a 28-hour adventure through the Northeastern transportation system. Bergman said he struggled with flight cancellations, bus delays and misleading train schedules on his way from Washington, D.C., to Ithaca.

“It was a hell of a learning experience; but, overall, it was just a hell experience,” Bergman said. “For my teachers who may be reading this, let this explain why I will likely bomb our upcoming tests. Sorry. It’s the weather’s fault.”

Other students, however, used the snow for alternative means of transportation.

A member of Cornell Outdoor Education, Alex Wilson ’12 used his Telemark Skis to get to a meeting at Bartels Hall Monday morning.

After skiing down the slope on his way home, Wilson said he would probably ski back to campus for his class, Hotel Administration 4430: Intro to Wines.

He was not so sure about the return journey. “I’m not aware of skiing and drinking policies,” he said.

Original Author: Liz Camuti