A winter ice storm ranging from states in the Midwest to the Northeast left Wittenberg covered in sheets of ice, and forced University administration to cancel classes three days in a row for the first time in 34 years.
“We had a large winter storm in 1977 like this,” said Interim Provost Warren Copeland. “We may have canceled three days in a row back then, but definitely not since that time.”
Freezing rain and snow left its first mark on campus the night of Monday, January 31, blanketing streets and sidewalks with inches of ice, causing slippery walk-ways for students and faculty on Tuesday morning. A panel of Wittenberg Administration, including Interim Provost Copland, the Vice President for Human Relations, Maureen Massaro, and the Vice President of Business and Finance, Daryl Kitchen, make the ultimate decision of when to cancel classes after speaking to Paulsen on the conditions of the campus.
“We generally do not shut down campus unless we are under a Level 3 snow emergency,” said Massaro. “However, this was a safety issue because of the ice.”
Classes were canceled before 8 a.m. on Tuesday, after the head of Physical Plant, John Paulsen, inspected campus and reported to the administration the conditions of the roads and sidewalks.
“We prepared for incidents like this months ago,” said Paulsen. “We have plenty of salt, but freezing conditions such as these causes salt not to work.”
According to Paulsen factors such as the thickness of the ice and temperatures of 15-20 degrees cause salt to be defective, because the top layer of ice refreezes before the salt can completely melt the bottom layers.
Freezing conditions continued to hit Wittenberg after its initial attack, freezing another layer of ice on top of the already frozen sidewalks Tuesday evening. Wittenberg was left resembling an ice-skating rink Wednesday, Feb. 2.
With sidewalks layered with ice, many students found themselves falling frequently; however, Wittenberg security only received one reported fall, surprising Chief Loney because of the conditions around campus. The reported fall by a male student near the southwest entrance of Firestine was called in to security a day after the initial accident.
Other incidents of students falling were not reported to security, although rumors of these accidents were known by security.
“I fell right outside my house and my head hit really hard against the ice,” said senior Adam Matthews. “I didn’t call Witt security but I had a few cuts on the side of my face, and I’m pretty sure I had a concussion.”
With ice still thick on sidewalks and walkways by Thursday morning, classes were again canceled by the administration because of safety concerns regarding students and faculty.
“I’m a faculty member and I know it cuts days out of the syllabus,” said Copeland. “It wasn’t an easy decision but we were worried about the safety of students.”
Classes resumed Friday, Feb. 4 after warmer conditions allowed physical plant staff to de-ice most of campus sidewalks.
(Kali Parmley / firstname.lastname@example.org)