April 23, 2012

Record-Setting Late April Snowfall Hits Cornell Campus

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Cornell students and faculty were surprised early Monday morning by a record-breaking six inches of April snowfall that weather services failed to predict.

“Everyone was caught off guard,” said Joseph M. Lalley ’94, the University’s Senior Director of Facilities Operations. Even at 4 a.m., the storm was still not in the forecasts of Accuweather.com and The Weather Channel, he said.

By that time, one Cornell plow had already been out in the streets for three hours, Lalley said.

According to Jessica Rennells ’04 of the Northeast Regional Climate Center, the storm was the largest single day snowfall this late in the year since record-keeping for Ithaca began.

Late season snow storms are not infrequent in Ithaca, according to Prof. Arthur T. DeGaetano, earth and atmospheric sciences. April snowfalls of around five inches occur once every four or five years, he said.

Prof. Benjamin Garcia, English, said that his expereiences living in Ithaca back up the statistic.

“You think it’s not going to happen. Like this one, I thought, ‘Oh, wow it’s really not going to, we’re going to make it past April without this happening,’ but nope,” he said.

Most Cornell students said they were not surprised by the late snowfall.

“At this point I’m so desensitized to extreme weather patterns that it’s just like ‘oh, Ithaca –– you again,’” said Lanny Huang ’14.

Lindsay Omichinski ’13 echoed this sentiment.

“The snow wasn’t that big of a surprise for me,” she said. “There were a couple of surprise snows my freshman year, though not as late in the semester as this one, and Ithaca weather is always so fickle. I guess I just expect the unexpected.”

The latest measurable snowfall to occur in Ithaca was on May 10 in both 1966 and 1977, Rennells said.

According to DeGaetano, this year’s mild winter was not responsible for the storm occurring so late in the season but played a role in lessening the accumulation of snow and causing it to quickly melt.

According to an email from Lalley, Pete Salino ’79, the University’s Director of Grounds, estimated that Monday’s snow removal cost $35,000, lower than normal in part due to warmer temperatures.

The mild winter and the unexpected nature of the storm both delayed the reaction of the University and many municipalities to the storm.

Usually, Lalley said, the University has time to announce the night before whether campus will remain open or will close. This time, Cornell did not send out the announcement that the University would remain open until 6 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Lalley said that the decision to keep the University open was largely based on TCAT’s assessment that the weather was not perilous for drivers.

Most main roads in the area were “fairly cleared” by 7 a.m. Monday morning, according to DeGaetano, who drove to work at that time. He said that at 7 a.m., Routes 13 and 366, as well as most roads on campus, were already clear, but that the back roads were “a bit slick.”

Other professors boasted that travel was not too difficult.

“The snow was not a problem [for me] … The roads were clear,” said Prof. Christine Sparfel, French.

Sparfel said, “We’re backsliding towards winter, it seems.”

Original Author: Wesley Rogers