Nemo descends on College, commonwealth

Winter Storm Nemo, the nor’easter that rocked New England last weekend, pelted the College and Massachusetts with snow from last Thursday to Sunday. With 18 reported fatalities, snowfall from Nemo accumulated throughout the East Coast. Midwestern U.S. Central and Eastern Canada were also affected, with hurricane-force wind gusts sweeping across Nova Scotia at a peak of 93 mph. Connecticut witnessed the highest snowfall, with 40 inches of snow recorded in Hamden.

The threat of Nemo forced the College to plan ahead to weather the storm, especially considering the statewide closing of public roads in Massachusetts after 4 p.m. last Friday. “We pulled together a group of key department heads … on Thursday afternoon as the blizzard was approaching to discuss everything from athletic event rescheduling to theater performances to dining program changes to plowing/shoveling to power outage emergency preparedness,” Steve Klass, vice president for campus life, said. “The road closure ordered by the governor was probably the single variable that was both completely unanticipated and the most challenging to work with. We were fortunate that this particular region wasn’t hit with the significant snowfalls that impacted the eastern portion of the state.”

Clearing snow on campus was a top priority for the College. “We had plow crews in throughout the night on Friday, with the majority of the Facilities staff scheduled to come in on Saturday morning to clean walkways, exterior stairs, building entrances and emergency exits,” Robert Wright, interim associate vice president for facilities, said. “The statewide closing of roads had no effect on our snow removal process as our Facilities staff are considered by the state ‘individuals essential to providing critical services’ and were exempt from the statewide ban.”

Athletic contests for the weekend were canceled and rescheduled to accommodate inclement weather and the road closings. “We moved every event off of Friday,” Director of Athletics Lisa Melendy said. “So that was men’s and women’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s track and field and men’s and women’s squash. The only thing not canceled Friday was skiing.” All games except men’s ice hockey at home against Middlebury and women’s ice hockey away against Middlebury were canceled last Saturday. Last Friday’s men’s and women’s basketball games against Amherst and men’s and women’s ice hockey games against Middlebury were moved to Sunday. Saturday’s basketball games against Trinity were rescheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday night. “This amount of moving does not happen often,” Melendy said.

Dining Services also adapted its schedule to minimize danger posed to staff as they traveled home. “By closing Whitmans’ (Late Night) and the ’82 Grill we were able to minimize the number of staff [thus] reducing travel,” Robert Volpi, director of Dining Services, said. “Approximately, eight out of 17 staff reported to the College. For those that worked, we offered hotel arrangements for them at the Williams Inn. Saturday morning breakfast was delayed to 9 a.m. to allow our staff time to deal with family needs and then safe traveling into Williamstown.”

The Williams-Mystic program was also affected by Nemo. Fortunately, students were not on the Mystic campus when the storm hit. “If the current Williams-Mystic class had been here – they were on their offshore trip at sea in the Gulf of Mexico, far from Nemo, when the storm hit – they would have stayed secure in their houses,” Jim Carlton, director of the Williams-Mystic Program and professor of marine sciences, said. “The class was delayed getting back here because of canceled air flights. They were scheduled to return to Mystic Saturday night, but had to spend [Saturday] night in Charlotte N.C., and got back to Mystic late [Sunday] morning.”

All in all, the College kept its community members safe. “Our staff – Dining, [Campus Safety and] Security, Facilities – are amazingly dedicated to keeping this campus safe and operational for our students,” Klass said. “I was in regular contact with the heads of Security and Dining and was so encouraged by the fact that everyone who was scheduled made it in to work and the place ran as though it was any other evening. We owe these folks our sincere gratitude and admiration.”

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