Hurricane Sandy has torn through the East Coast over the last week, reaching the College and impacting daily operations on Monday afternoon.
Category 1 Hurricane Sandy caused Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to declare a state of emergency across the state starting on Saturday afternoon, thereby allowing local officials and organizations to begin preparation for the storm’s arrival. The storm caused local schools and offices all over Massachusetts to close, and many peer institutions in the storm’s path canceled classes for a day or more, depending on predictions for the areas of their specific campuses. In Sandy’s aftermath, hundreds of thousands of individuals across Massachusetts were left without power according to a recent report by the Associated Press.
Despite falling trees and some damage, the local area seems to have come through the storm fairly unscathed. The College and its immediate vicinity have not yet lost power due to the storm, though The Berkshire Eagle reported that downed power lines and debris have blocked roadways and delayed normal activities in the area. Local schools were closed on Monday and Tuesday.
Vice President for Campus Life Steve Klass sent out an all-campus e-mail on Sunday reassuring students that the College was making adequate preparations for the storm’s arrival.
“We are working closely with Campus Safety, Residential Life, Dining Services, Facilities and many others to make sure that everyone here is safe and well cared for throughout the storm and afterward,” Klass wrote. “In particular, we have food stocked and will be able to prepare meals for the duration, even if power goes out.”
Klass also urged students to ensure that their cell phones and e-mail accounts would be accessible to them on Monday, as the College planned to use e-mail and its emergency notification system, ConnectED, to notify students of any cancellations of normal activities or to relay information.
“ConnectED is a service that the College subscribes to that allows us to contact all members of the community with emergency messaging by e-mail and phone,” Dean Bolton said.
The emergency notification system, which has been in place on campus for a few years now, allows College administrators to send a message to students, faculty and staff immediately.
Based on then-current weather reports, the administration decided on Sunday evening to keep the campus operations open for Monday morning.
“We didn’t close for the duration of [Monday] because we had pretty good information about the timing of the storm’s arrival in our area,” Bolton said. “We knew that high winds weren’t expected here until midafternoon, and we didn’t [want] activities canceled if that wasn’t necessary.”
On Monday morning, President Falk sent a second all-campus e-mail announcing that all campus operations – including classes, practices and extracurricular meetings – would be suspended as of 2:30 p.m. Dining Services canceled all catered events and late night service on Monday, though Mission, Driscoll and Whitmans’ continued service until 8 p.m.
Shortly after President Falk’s e-mail was sent out, Dean Bolton sent a follow-up e-mail discussing more details of the cancellation.
College administrators and staff met again on Monday evening to assess the storm forecasts for Tuesday. Following this meeting, Falk announced via an all-campus e-mail that, barring a long-term power outage, all College facilities and operations would proceed as normal on Tuesday.
Damages caused by the bulk of the storm were assessed early on Tuesday morning.
According to Klass, three specific areas of damage were pinpointed at that time: a tree fell across the driveway between upper and lower Thompson parking lots on Monday evening; the fence next to the President’s House was hit by a falling tree; and a large tree limb fell near Brooks. As of press time, Klass was awaiting further campus damage reports.
“Most importantly, we don’t have any reports of injuries to students, staff or faculty,” Klass said. “I’m deeply grateful to the dedicated staff members in a number of departments who have been here or on call around the clock, who have prepared in significant detail for major campus upheaval and who have put in long and stressful hours over the course of the past several days.”
Due to the unpredictable nature of the storm, it is difficult to know how Hurricane Sandy will affect many other upcoming campus events, including this weekend’s Homecoming festivities.
“As we move forward, we are constantly monitoring the expected track and impact of the storm through the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and other information sources,” Bolton said.
“We will likely be meeting to make plans and adjust to changing conditions several times a day until the situation returns fully to normal,” she continued. “It’s certainly possible that weekend activities may be affected or even canceled, but it is impossible to know for sure at this point.”
Despite these concerns, Director of Athletics Lisa Melendy stated that as of Tuesday morning, all athletics practices and events were back to a normal schedule.
“At this point, besides canceling practices [Monday], we are not experiencing any serious impacts,” she said. “Cole Field did not flood, which is great news. It is a bit early to tell if there will be other effects, [and] we have not altered any plans at this point. We will continue to watch the weather and monitor the situation in case any adjustments need to be made.”