Michael Wenye Li / Sun File Photo

Students struggled to return to campus during the first week of February, as heavy snow brought hazardous travel conditions.

February 7, 2021

Winter Storm Frustrates Students’ Move-In Plans

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As thousands of Cornellians flocked to Ithaca for the spring semester, the nor’easter that brought heavy snow across the East Coast this week hindered students’ travel plans — creating move-in hurdles beyond testing and quarantine as students drove through heavy snow to get to campus.

The Ithaca area was hit hardest Tuesday, as the storm dumped 21 inches of snow before the winter storm warning for Tompkins County was discontinued Wednesday morning. Dangerous driving conditions in Ithaca and surrounding areas made it a difficult commute to campus, forcing some students to delay their move-in dates, while others traveled through the storm.

On Jan. 31, Cornell Housing sent an email saying it would accommodate any move-in changes, notifying students that they could request a rescheduled date and time if severe weather affected their arrival plans.  

Kate Kilmer ’22 described her return to West Campus last week as chaotic as she was forced to change her move-in date last minute because of the snow. 

She said the roads were in a “decent state” until she neared Ithaca, where the road conditions worsened.

“Collegetown was an actual disaster,” Kilmer said. “When I got to campus, there were cleanup crews starting to come out, but it was still very messy on campus, and they seem wildly unprepared to have students showing up on a day that students were not supposed to be coming.” 

Kilmer said she struggled to find food on West Campus because she moved in on an undesignated move-in day, and if not for hearing that there was food available at Noyes, Kilmer said she would have been completely unaware of any readily available food.  

Attempting to fly during the storm was no easy task, either. Starting his journey to Ithaca by plane, David Tigerman ’21 experienced another slew of problems while traveling from Austin, Texas. 

Two minutes before he boarded his connecting flight to Charlotte, North Carolina, Tigerman received an alert that his flight to Ithaca was canceled because of the incoming snow. He was able to switch his final destination to Syracuse, where he rented a car and drove to Ithaca in the dark.

“I had enough confidence for the highways, but it started to get nerve-wracking towards the Ithaca area,” Tigerman said.

Planning to travel for hours by car, Zach Thurston ’22, had to postpone his trip from Columbus, Ohio, from Jan. 29 to Feb. 3 because of the winter storm. 

His seven-hour drive became nine hours as the roads became more difficult to drive on once he was no longer on the highway. 

“Once you got closer to Ithaca, off the main highway and onto the back roads, it kind of went downhill from there,” Thurston said. “All the salt deposit was on my windshield. I couldn’t see anything and the sun was setting, so it was a nightmare to drive through.”  

With the majority of cars snowed in, parking became the final hurdle for all three students’ Wednesday arrival as most open spots were filled with snow. 

After struggling to park legally while staying close to their residences, Kilmer, Tigerman and Thurston parked and unloaded their bags, dragging them through the snow.