(Hiroko Masuike / The New York Times)

Students struggled to return to campus in the aftermath of winter storm Jonas.

January 27, 2016

Storm Jonas Delays Student Return to Cornell

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Cornell students and faculty members scrambled to return to Ithaca in time for the first day of classes in the aftermath of winter storm Jonas, which hit the East Coast last weekend.

The storm halted travel in several East Coast states, grounding more than ten thousand flights, freezing and covering roads and crippling mass transportation systems, according to The New  York Times.

Kevin Kee ’18, a Washington D.C. resident, remembered that stores were “packed” as people prepared for the storm.

“We went to the grocery store to stock up and you should’ve seen the bread aisle. Almost all the bread was gone and the lines were packed,” Kee said. “By the third day, our household was almost out of food, and my cousin and I had to go on a food run with our backpacks.”

Kee said he was surprised by how his hometown of Washington D.C. responded to the storm.

“[In Rochester] we got snow on the daily, and everything was plowed quickly and efficiently,” Kee said. “Even now two days after the storm my neighborhood is still not plowed. It’s amazing how people in D.C. went crazy over the snow.”

Julia Greenberg ’18 said her neighborhood — located in Bethesda, Maryland, just northwest of D.C. — was desolate after the blizzard.

Greenberg said the storm did not entirely ruin her travel plans, as it did for other Cornell students, but she said it “was definitely inconvenient.”

“D.C. is terrible at clearing roads, so I was stuck in my house for days,” Greenberg said. “I also had planned on getting a ride up on Monday, about a day after the storm ended, and luckily the main roads were clear by then. However, I had to drag my bags up my street, which hadn’t been plowed yet, and meet my ride at the main road.”

Kathryn Haldeman ’18 also experienced difficulties returning to Ithaca from her hometown of Mountlake Terrace, just north of Seattle, Washington.

“My flight into New York City on Saturday morning was cancelled, and I wasn’t able to get a flight into New York City until Monday,” Haldeman said. “When other issues cancelled my flight out of Seattle, I couldn’t fly to New York City until Tuesday. So instead, I flew into Syracuse.”

Haldeman said she had friends who experienced similar travel complications.

“My roommate came back to Cornell on Thursday because her parents did not want to travel through the storm,” she said.

Prof. Keith Tidball, natural resources — the State Director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension NY Disaster Education Network — said many cities did not prepare adequately for the storm despite warnings issued about it multiple days in advance.

“From what I have heard from meteorologists and experts, the thing that was unusual or irregular about this storm was how predictable it was,” Tidball said. “We were hearing about it for a week; there was so much time for preparations … and yet, there were still so many unprepared or underprepared.”

The key to avoiding mass confusion — despite factors such as transportation systems closing — is “to develop a culture of preparedness, rather than dependency,” according to Tidball.

“People [should be] naturally inclined to prepare, like our grandparents before us, rather than depend — depend on government, on first responders, on someone else or on their own good luck,” he said.