Four day weekend due to inclement weather

Courtney Gilder

Alexis Carrizales, biology freshman, pushes Norma Nieto, sophomore business, and Madison Brechbuhl, nursing freshman, down 'The Hill' on makeshift sleds during the first snow day, Monday February 23. Photo by Rachel Johnson
Alexis Carrizales, biology freshman, pushes Norma Nieto, sophomore business, and Madison Brechbuhl, nursing freshman, down ‘The Hill’ on makeshift sleds during the first snow day, Monday February 23. Photo by Rachel Johnson

University officials issued two code-red weather alerts this week, on Monday and Tuesday, canceling classes and closing most of the campus. The dining hall, student center, Wellness Center and Moffett Library remained open both days. On Tuesday, Feb. 24, the Mustangs Route ran from 1-5 p.m. to bring students and community members to the rescheduled presidential search forum.

After two days of temperatures in the mid to upper 70s, the greater Wichita Falls Community woke up Monday morning to a solid sheet of ice, sleet and snow covering the ground and a high of only 27 degrees.

The surrounding independent school districts canceled school before 6 a.m. but university officials delayed classes and then waited until 7:35 a.m. to cancel classes for Monday, Feb. 23, instead of delaying classes until 10 a.m. For Tuesday, Feb. 24, the surrounding school districts had closed well before the 6 a.m. deadline to the media, but university officials waited until 9:15 a.m. to cancel rather than of delaying classes until 11 a.m.

According to the Policies and Procedures manual, “if the university plans to close offices and/or suspend classes, all area television and radio stations will be notified the previous evening or no later than 6:00 a.m. of the day in question. The exact period of closing will be specified.”

The decision to suspend classes both days were made before 6 in the morning and the decision to cancel classes was made later in the morning.

Keith Lamb, vice president of student affairs and enrollment management, said, “On both days, the community was notified of a delay before 6 a.m.  We always reserve the right to subsequently cancel if we feel conditions are unsafe at the time the delay is to end.”

Lamb said the university considers the safety of the students when traveling to and around campus. Before a recommendation is made, traveling safety is considered as well as the safety of everyone once on campus.

“The last two days, in particular, the roads were hazardous and provided safety concerns accessing the campus,” Lamb said. “The parking lots were iced over, especially this morning, and there were safety concerns with individuals walking on ice through parking lots where cars were also traveling.  We do not want to put anyone at risk getting to, or traversing, campus.”

The campus police are consulted in the process of making a closing or delay for inclement weather as well as the public information office, the Provost, the Vice President for Academic Affairs and the City of Wichita Falls in order to update the Mustangs Route travel information.

“The normal guideline is to make a decision by 6 in the morning,” Julie Gaynor, director of marketing and public information, said. “We stay in contact with the police chief and the president, and he has the final say.”

Gaynor said a deciding factor was based on what the weather would be like when they had agreed to start classes.

“They were just trying to decide whether the sun would come out on time and melt the ice, but the parking lots were still almost completely frozen over,” Gaynor said. “We have a lot of stakeholders to consider, not just local students but also commuters and staff.”

Some faculty and students had concerns that some people didn’t have internet connection in their homes and the notification for the second day came in late at 9:15 p.m.

Gaynor said, “As soon as the decision is made we send an e-mail to local TV stations and the the local news, and they did a good job of immediately getting it on their screens and websites. I would just say to turn on your TV and make sure. We had a nice buffer, since there was already a delay till 11, and we had to make the right decision. We understand that people have a schedule to work around, and we work hard to make a decision without unnecessarily turning around schedules.”

The campus police are a vital component in establishing a delay or closing campus.

“Early in the morning we always drive around the streets on and around campus,” said Dan Williams, chief of university police. “We try to get a feel for the safety of the parking lots and streets. The officers who are on duty during the night keep a close watch on road conditions on campus as well as roads in Wichita Falls. They drive the various major thoroughfares in Wichita Falls and they also check campus closely. They determine how safe the roads are to drive on and how safe the campus sidewalks and parking lots are for students to traverse. We also evaluate reports we get from the National Weather Service and we are in communication with the city of Wichita Falls and the Texas Department of Public Safety.”

Williams said that he was out early Tuesday morning to check streets and assist in making the call to cancel schools.

“This morning when I was out, you could drive through highways and major intersections, but every parking lot on campus was completely iced over, as well our own streets and intersections,” Williams said “It would’ve been very dangerous for multiple cars to be on these roads. A lot of people don’t know how to drive on ice, and there are a lot of accidents. A call had to be made.”

Students

Campus workers and students got to enjoy a four day weekend due to inclement weather that spread across North Texas starting late Sunday evening. Students took the opportunity to do anything from study for upcoming tests to binge watch Netflix.

Cameron Parrish, music performance senior, said he used the extra days to study for a History exam on Wednesday.

“It’s our first history exam,” Parrish said. “I’ve been studying since Sunday, but these last two days I’ve had a little more time.”

Morgan Hulsey, criminal justice freshman, enjoyed her days off with the third floor north girls in Killingsworth.

“I was in the lounge with all the girls on my floor and we watched Frozen and other movies,” Hulsey said.

Rachel Bullard, theatre senior, decided that she was going to binge watch “Doctor Who” on her two days off.

“Well I happen to be sick so naturally I turned to Netflix and I thought why not binge on some Time Lord awesomeness,” Bullard said.

Brett Lincoln, mass communication junior, has spent his two days off listening to opera music and writing.

“I am writing a new slam piece for the UPB poetry event on Thursday,” Lincoln said.