Ten on Tuesday: 10 Ways to Prepare for a Big Storm

I’m a Midwest girl, born and raised, so my idea of a ‘big storm’ involves snow.  A lot of snow.  We don’t get big storms like Irene here, you see.  We get bad storms, tornadoes, and flooding, but we don’t generally get all of those things at the same time and for extended durations.  When we do, they come up quickly, without much warning, and it takes a while to recover simply because we’re not used to things like this.  It happened in July 2003, when a freak storm took out trees all over northern Illinois, leaving many without power for the better part of a week.  We lost all the food in our fridge, but were  thankful to not sustain damage on the house we would close on at the end of the week.

I’m more intimately familiar with big winter storms, the sort that blanket everything in a foot of snow in a few hours, making it difficult to do anything other than hunker down with soup and blankets and a good movie.  In case of winter storms:

  1. Hope and pray that your employer at least occasionally closes for inclement weather.  Mine doesn’t.
  2. If your employer doesn’t close for inclement weather, try to make work-from-home arrangements.
  3. Obsessively listen to the news in hopes that for once, your employer has changed their mind about closing for inclement weather.
  4. Decide to be a bigger person than your employer and cancel class – even though it’s online – because who wants to be the jerk that makes everyone go to school when the campus is closed?
  5. Arm yourself with a snow shovel, bag of salt, yak trax, many layers, and ibuprofen for the inevitable shoveling aches and pains.
  6. Start praying that the plowing company actually shows up this time AND doesn’t plow your car IN rather than out.
  7. Seal the windows with plastic, though you’ve probably already done that at the first sign of temps below 20.
  8. Start a pot of soup when you get home from work.
  9. Complain about how no one can drive in the snow EVEN THOUGH IT HAPPENS EVERY YEAR.
  10. Update the Netflix queue and hope that the internet stays up.

Ten on Tuesday is a listserv-driven meme thingamagig.

Thoughts on a Snow Day

For the purposes of this discussion, let’s set aside the fact that the amount of snow that we received overnight definitely did not live up to the excessive hype of [insert clever nickname for the snowstorm].  I agree: school should not be cancelled for 6″ of snow in the upper Midwest.  The upper Midwest should be prepared to handle 6″ of snow.

What I take issue with, however, is the University’s rationale for NOT canceling classes for inclement weather.  To wit: “We basically never cancel classes because we’re a residential school,” [University spokeswoman Kelly] Cunningham said. “People can get here.”

Let’s look at the numbers, shall we?  In 2010, there were 58,089 enrolled students and 40,712 staff members (including grad students employed by the University).  11,000 students, or 27% of the student body, live in campus housing.  Another 8% live in Greek houses or cooperative housing.  By those numbers, 35% of the student body lives on or immediately adjacent to campus.  The remaining 37,757 students – 65% of the student body – lives off campus.

So if 37,757 students and 40,712 faculty and staff members live off campus, then who are the “residential” “people” who “can get here”?  20% of the campus population.

What about the rest of us? The 41% of the campus population who are employed by the University must “make a reasonable effort to report to work as scheduled, using good judgement about the risk of travel”, to quote an email I received yesterday. If you’re unable to get to campus, you can take a vacation day, paid time off, or unpaid time off, depending on where and for whom you work.

The unspoken message here is that the University is far more concerned with the happiness and safety of those who live on campus – again, 20% of the population – than that of the 78,470 individuals who commute for work, school, or both.  Those of us in that second camp can obviously afford to absorb a day of pay if we choose comfort and safety over driving to work or taking the bus in bad weather.  And I think that’s ridiculous.

snow day, pt 2

The University canceled classes for a second day, and this time had the foresight to cancel the night before, meaning I slept in and didn’t trudge to the building through snow up to my knees. My coworkers are going to cover the handful classes that are meeting today, and I plan to do a whole lot of nothing. It’ll be great.

Last night, after I FINALLY got home around 8, SB, Keem, El, and I trudged through the snow to the Esquire for fried food and cheap beer. It was cold and blustery, but strangely peaceful outside. In some places the drifts were up to and past my knees (I’m 5’11-ish), meaning Keem had to do a lot hopping. On our walk home, we briefly visited a totally awesome snow fort – a couple of guys were bored and decided to spend their snow day digging tunnels into the giant plowed-up piles of snow in the church parking lot. I hope it’s still there if I venture out today.

While sitting at the bar eating our fried things, we watched the bartender run outside and push a guy’s stuck car out of the plowed-in parking spot – he came back to a round of applause. These are things I love about days like today – and a huge part of why I supported running classes yesterday and today. Yes, it was lonely and cold and sucky to be there all day by myself yesterday – but I would rather be inconvenienced in order to allow 20-30 people times 7 classes attend class – many of whom are not affected by the storm at all – than cancel because we didn’t want to go out in the snow. Even the gesture of being willing to run classes makes a big difference to a lot of people, and so I’m glad we did it. The Dean said in an email last night that he’s going to share our experience with the council of deans, who are meeting with the Global Campus folks next week to make some recommendations. His email ended with “the example you set today may be more important than you know.”

So happy snow day, folks! Enjoy the winter weather if you can, and stay warm if you don’t want to go outside. I’ll hopefully be doing some of both.

Word on the street – OK, on the ‘nets – is that this is the first time since 1979 that the University has closed because of snow. I made it to work just fine despite waiting for a 20-minutes-late bus – just in time to find out that classes are canceled and non-essential staff are supposed to stay/go home.

Despite this, we’ve made the executive decision to still have classes tonight. I think I’m the only member of tech staff left in the building – only two of us made it in – and it looks like I’ll be chillin’ on the third floor until early evening, when my coworkers will relieve me. So far no instructors have canceled classes, so I may get to do the inconceivable and run 2-3 classes at once. As Linda said, “This will be a new story for LEEPlore–we ran classes during the blizzard of ’07….”

Update: Hey, we’re famous (kind of)!