Campus braces for snow

Classes are expected to be held Wednesday, but the U is preparing for a winter storm.

Campus braces for snow

Alex Bitter

The University of Minnesota braced for heavy snowfall and arctic temperatures as a winter storm approached the Twin Cities on Tuesday.

The front began with light rain midday. Weather watchers said they expected the first of 6 to 9 inches of snow to arrive late Tuesday and continue into Wednesday.

The first major snowfall of the season has everyone from commuters to grounds care anticipating the change.

Temperatures were expected to fall as well, with Tuesday’s lows in the 30s giving way to single-digit highs by the weekend.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Kelsey Angle said the biggest drop is likely to come Thursday, with the high dipping to 15 degrees.

“[Without proper covering], hypothermia and frostbite are definitely possibilities,” he said.

He said air travelers and commuter students should plan extra time to make their trip, especially during Wednesday’s snowfall.

University Grounds Superintendent Les Potts said some major walkways around campus would be partially closed or redirected as a result of heavy snowfall and slippery
ice.

He said foot traffic will be narrowed in certain areas of campus to limit the area that groundskeepers need to clear and de-ice,  including closing off some stairs on the West Bank end of the Washington Avenue Bridge.

Groundskeepers hit some difficulties while pretreating campus sidewalks Tuesday due to the rain and a few recently poured sidewalks that can’t yet handle salt.

While similar storms have caught the University off guard in the past, Potts said the facilities management staff is ready for this storm.

“Everything is fueled up; everybody’s checking plows,” he said. “We’ll just wait and see what happens.”

Though classes were expected to continue Wednesday at the University’s Twin Cities campus, the University of Minnesota-Duluth campus closed at 5 p.m. Tuesday and will remain closed through Wednesday.

Class on the Twin Cities campus was last canceled for snow on Feb. 21, 2011. Other parts of the University, like the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, remained open during the half-day closure.

Under University policy, a snowstorm can close campus and cancel classes if the storm presents “a serious risk to the health, safety, or security of the University community, research animals or other mission-critical
assets.”

University Services chief of staff Leslie Krueger said the University has closed only a handful of times in recent years.

“It’s very rare, but it does happen,” she said.

The University’s Department of Emergency Management consults a number of sources, including University Landcare, Parking and Transportation Services, National Weather Service forecasts and Metro Transit before deciding to close campus, she said.

If University Services administrators decide to close, they will notify students by email and text message, Krueger said.

In the event of a snow emergency, drivers should not park their vehicles on snow emergency streets until after 8 a.m. the day after the storm.