Snowstorm batters Northeast, causes College to change or cancel programming

The facilities department clears pathways to keep the College safe for faculty and students. (Photo courtesy to Christian Ruhl, Photo Editor.)
The facilities department clears pathways to keep the College safe for faculty and students. (Photo courtesy to Christian Ruhl, Photo Editor.)

A powerful winter storm overwhelmed the East Coast this past week from Feb. 10 to Feb. 14. The storm, characterized as a bombogenesis or weather bomb for its rapid intensification brought on by a severe drop in atmospheric pressure, affected states as far south as Georgia and as far north as Maine. Large swathes of the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and Southeast regions were bombarded with ice, sleet, freezing rain and snow.

While there were winter storm warnings in at least 18 states by Thursday, only 12 governors declared states of emergency due to the storm. Meteorologists at the National Weather Service predicted that 20 states would be affected over the course of the storm. The lower Northeast was forecasted to receive near one foot of snow. According to the Washington Post,, 1.2 million homes and businesses were without electricity at some point during the storm, with staggering outages hitting Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina in particular. Airlines canceled more than 6500 flights nationwide and delayed around 2400, as reported by the global aviation tracking website FlightAware. Washington D.C. saw 10 to 15 inches of snow during the storm’s height on Thursday, the most snowfall recorded in the area since 2010. The highest snowfall was reported in West Virginia, where 27.5 inches covered Mount Storm. As of this printing, 21 deaths have been reported in connection to the Feb. 10-14 storm.

Like other states in the Northeast, the storm hit Massachusetts hard. Snow accumulated across the commonwealth at an average rate of one to two inches per hour at the height of the nor’easter. The National Weather Service issued a Winter Weather Advisory warning for Boston from 7 a.m. on Thursday through 7 a.m. on Friday, forecasting that the city could see winds of up to 50 mph and snowfall of up to seven inches. Berkshire County and adjacent areas received significant snowfall. By 5 p.m. on Feb. 13, 9.5 inches of snow blanketed Springfield, Mass. and 7.5 inches covered Pittsfield, Mass. After the blizzard’s peak, Becket, Mass. measured 21 inches of snow and Lanesborough, Mass. reported 16 inches.

The blizzard hit the College primarily last Thursday and Friday. “This was a big storm with it snowing about two to three inches an hour from 2 a.m. through mid-morning on [last] Friday and that was on top of the three to four inches we received [last] Thursday afternoon and evening,” Bob Wright, executive director of Facilities, said. At the College, keeping all

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members of the community affiliated with the school safe was a top priority. “As we prepare for the arrival of inclement weather this evening, Dining [Services] has modified its operational hours and venues,” Jeanette Kopczynski, assistant director of Catering, announced in an all-campus e-mail on Feb. 13. Dining Services provided regular hours for dinner last Thursday but limited late night fare to Whitmans’ Late Night.

In addition to adjusting the schedule of campus dining, the College also took measures to minimize foot traffic, closing campus at around 3 p.m. on Thursday. All athletic contests on Thursday were either canceled or re-scheduled. Snow removal proved a challenge for Facilities since the most extreme weather hit as the College was poised to host the annual Winter Carnival and the NESCAC women’s swimming and diving championship meet beginning on Friday.

“In preparation for the storm we had our grounds crew scheduled for staggered shifts working around the clock from [last] Thursday morning through [last] Friday evening clearing roads and sidewalks,” Wright said. “We then

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had the majority of the Facilities staff clearing walkways, entrances, exterior stairs and fire escapes all day [last] Friday. We had staff back in [last] Saturday to push snow banks back, open more spots in parking lots and continue with general clean up. We also utilized an outside roofing contractor to assist with ice and snow removal from roofs and trace down and repair leaks. It made for long hours and tough work and I am proud of the awesome job Facilities staff did in their efforts to stay ahead of the storm.”