By Adam Baker/News writer
Record cold temperatures, snow and ice contributed to the arctic-like weather that shut down campus last Thursday. Despite crews working all night and into the morning, many parking lots, roads and sidewalks were still impassible — and the remnants of inclement weather also resulted in two-hour delays both Friday and Monday mornings. Almost from the time the first snowflake falls onto Eastern’s campus, work begins to prepare the grounds for normal activity. While students sit with crossed fingers and hopes of canceled classes, a number of different university agencies are fast at work.
According to James Street, director of facilities services, more than 200 people are responsible for clearing the campus after a snow storm. Street explained that crews work nearly all day and night. Their schedules are staggered so the equipment is constantly manned while at the same time workers are given a chance to rest.
Making the campus safe and passable after a snow storm like the one last week isn’t an easy task. Elements such as near zero temperatures, heavy traffic and parked cars are just a few of the challenges facing Eastern’s ground crews.
“The bitter cold associated with the last few days complicates things for people working outside,” Street said. “It makes equipment hard to start and it just makes snow removal more difficult because our arsenal of ice melt products doesn’t work.”
As time for the campus to open approaches, the decision of whether or not classes are to be canceled or delayed is made.
“There are a number of discussions that take place before a delay or cancellation is called,” Street said. “They involve public safety, other police agencies, the president, provost, our crews, weather reports and so on.”
In addition to all these resources, Street also explained that someone usually takes an early morning drive to obtain a real feel for the current road conditions.
“These decisions are not taken lightly and every attempt is made to ensure the safety of our students,” he said.
Last Thursday students all across campus complained they did not receive news of Thursday’s cancellation until late into the morning or not at all.
“When I woke up I checked the TV, but didn’t see anything about EKU,” said Alison Harris, an undeclared freshman from Pikeville. “Luckily, I checked the Web and saw that we were out.”
Glasser said Eastern tries to make snow decisions as early as possible.
“Last week, due to the unusual cold and snowy conditions, we could not determine if the campus was safe until about 7:30 a.m. when it was light enough to determine how bad the icy patches were on the roads, sidewalks and parking lots,” she said.
Eastern has seen a high number of delays this year, and the first class cancellations in about four years. Classes also were canceled Dec. 5.
According to Ami Piccirilli, director of communications, campus last closed Feb. 4-6 in 1998. Nearly 13 inches of snow dumped on the campus that year not only closing campus, but also shutting down I-75.
The Progress reported in past editions that Eastern experienced at least two other blizzards that crippled campus. Fourteen inches of snow fell in January 1994 canceling classes for four days.
In January of 1978, Eastern experienced what was called Kentucky’s worst blizzard in 100 years. Eighteen inches of snow buried the campus that year and forced nearly 125 individuals who were stranded on I-75 to stay in Alumni Coliseum.
“This is the first year in several that such temperature extremes and driving conditions have warranted these decisions,” President Glasser explained. “We must take into consideration all university students, staff and faculty who travel to campus. Safety is my primary concern.”
Although the majority of university offices close when classes are canceled, offices with essential functions remain open. A significant part of the facilities services staff, public safety, food services, housing staff and WEKU-FM all continue to operate. The library also remains open with reduced hours.