Although Cornell has declared snow days for two years in a row after not having cancelled class for 24 years, it is unlikely that the winter storm warning forecasted for Thursday night will cause the University to shut down again this year.
Cornell could receive up to six inches of snow on Thursday night with winds expected to be around 5 – 9 mph, according to weather forecasts by the University.
Winter Storm Stella in 2017 — which shut down campus for the first time since 1993 — was expected to have 12 to 18 inches of snow with winds up to 40 m.p.h., according to Marc Alessi ’18, secretary and forecasting chair of the American Meteorological Society’s Cornell chapter at the time. This year in February, the University remained open despite a warning of 10 inches of snow, but cancelled classes in March for a storm that brought in only four inches of snow but was expected to be much worse than it actually was.
On Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service released a Winter Storm Warning for South Central New York and Northeastern Pennsylvania that is expected to remain in effect until 8 a.m. on Friday.
“The winter storm warning in effect should not be taken lightly,” Karen Papazian ’19, co-president of the Cornell Meteorological Society told The Sun. “This will be the first substantial snowfall this winter season and it’s better to take precautions.”
The snowfall rate is predicted to be around an inch per hour and the snow could turn into a “brief period of sleet” in some areas, according to the warning. The National Weather Service also said that the warning implies that “significant amounts of snow, sleet and ice will make travel very hazardous or impossible.”
According to Papazian, “all is dependent on whether we switch from snow to freezing rain/sleet.”
“Because of the cold temperatures this past week the ground is fairly cold, setting up conditions for snow to immediately start accumulating,” she said. “This could end up giving us higher snowfall amounts.”
In an email sent out to the Cornell community, the University acknowledged that “the storm’s impacts are uncertain” and that the “safety and well-being of students, faculty, staff and visitors is a top priority,” but maintained that normal operations and class schedules will still remain in effect.
“You get snow in Ithaca,” Rick Burgess, vice president of infrastructure properties and planning, previously told The Sun. “In terms of dealing with it and knowing what to do, that’s a pretty finely tuned machine.”
All members of the campus community will be notified by a CornellALERT email if there is a change to the university operating status, according to the email.
“Stay safe and be sure to keep your Cornell alerts on in hopes of a potential snow day!” Papazian said.