Classes snowed out

Heavy snow throughout the cities has prompted not only school closings, but roads and airports.

by Conrad Wilson

The University closed at 2:30 p.m. Thursday due to near-whiteout conditions. As of press time, the University hadn’t announced Friday class cancellations.

Minneapolis and St. Paul also declared snow emergencies Thursday.

According to University officials, this is the first time the University has shut down since 1991 due to severe weather.

The storm, which is expected to drop at least one foot of snow in central Minnesota, also caused flight cancellations at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

University officials issued a statement Thursday afternoon alerting students and staff to class cancellations.

“In light of current conditions and the forecast for severely worsening weather, this is an appropriate measure at this time,” Provost E. Thomas Sullivan said in a statement. “The mid-afternoon closing of metro area schools, colleges and universities and other institutions made it even clearer that this is the right thing to do.”

Rick Russler, a senior meteorologist with The Weather Channel, said, “it’s definitely going to get worse before it gets better.”

Russler said to expect accumulating snow and wind gusts reaching 50 mph. Heavy snows will continue through Friday morning rush hour and will likely linger through Saturday and into Sunday.

President Bob Bruininks’ State of the University address, which was scheduled for Thursday afternoon, will be rescheduled.

University spokesperson Dan Wolter said the speech was planned in conjunction with a University Senate meeting. It is not certain whether the speech will be postponed until the next scheduled senate meeting, April 5, or sometime in March.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced he had no immediate plans to cancel school statewide.

Metro Transit officials said riders should expect significant delays. As of 5 p.m., trains were running two minutes behind schedule, said Bob Gibbons, director of customer service at Metro Transit.

About 47 percent of buses were running behind schedule, he said.

Road conditions Thursday afternoon were fair to poor, said Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesperson Mary McFarland.

“Stay off the road if you can,” she said. “It’s a significant storm we’re in for.”

As of Thursday evening, MNDOT had more than 200 plows on the roads.

Perhaps the most notable event on campus was the traveling greek snowball fight. About 100 members from the University’s greek community ran in mass down University Avenue throwing snow.

Jacob Shully, a business marketing sophomore, said he walked from his home on 25th Avenue Southeast and Como Avenue Southeast to class on the St. Paul campus, only to find out class was canceled.

Steve Chichester, a facilities management employee, said snow emergencies mean long work hours.

The snow isn’t the hardest part, he said, sitting behind the wheel of his Bobcat 5600 Turbo plow. Driving “down a walk, there’s no where for (people) to go, but into the snow bank,” he said.

– Tiff Clements and the Associated Press contributed to this report.