Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Saturday, June 24, 2017

'Snowpocalypse' keeps essential AU staff close to campus

The record-breaking, two-punch snowfall that has blanketed campus for the last week has led to AU staff being housed nearby or on campus as well as nearly a week of class cancellations.

“Life threatening blizzard conditions” developed in the D.C. area Wednesday morning for the second time in a week, The Washington Post reported. The Federal Government has been closed for three straight days and it's likely that it will be closed for a fourth.

On average, D.C. gets about 16 inches of snowfall a year, but the last two storms have both surpassed that, helping make this winter the snowiest since records of snowfall were accurately kept, the Post reported.

Snow accumulations were high enough to topple part of the recently-installed canopy, which once covered the pedestrian walkway between the Mary Graydon Center and Battelle-Tompkins building, The Eagle has reported. The new School of International Service building has also sustained some minor damage.

Some trees on campus, weighed down by the snow, fell down or had their branches snapped off. This was especially evident in the Letts-Anderson Quad, where at least half the trees were damaged.

Most of the public transportation system was shut down for much of the week. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority busses stopped running the day immediately after the first storm and the Metrorail was running along underground routes only, according to WMATA. The Metrorail system can operate in snowfall of less than eight inches, according to WMATA. If the snow exceeds eight inches, it covers the electrified third rail, which provides the necessary power to move the trains.

The AU shuttle did not operate while the snowfall was at its heaviest. Shuttle buses operated on Monday and Tuesday on a limited schedule between the Tenley and Main Campuses only. On Wednesday, the shuttle stopped operating once again with the new snowfall.

Some AU staff was housed on Tenley Campus, others in the Holiday Inn on Wisconsin Avenue, according to Chief Michael McNair, director of Public Safety. Public Safety officers and dispatchers were housed on Tenley Campus, McNair said.

Pilar Figaro, a TDR worker, has been staying at the Holiday Inn since Friday with about 10 other workers, she said.

“We were there so we could come make food for you guys,” she said.

Figaro said she hopes to go home soon, but with the second storm she does not think that will happen, she said.

Ara Elliot, also a TDR worker, said some workers have not been home since Thursday before the first storm.

“We’re doing this to feed you all,” she said.

“I want to go home!” a TDR worker shouted several times from behind the FireWok. Being a supervisor, he had not seen home since Thursday and was expecting to stay at the Holiday Inn through the second storm.

Public Safety found alternative methods to patrol campus, since their T-3 motion vehicles do not function in the snow.

“Public Safety has two vehicles capable of operating in the snow,” McNair said. “And most of the buildings were patrolled on foot as the entrances were cleared.”

Zachary Knowles, a junior in the School of International Service, said D.C. reacts poorly to snow and does a terrible job at dealing with it.

“D.C. should be ashamed at their lack of preparedness for situations like this,” he said. “I just spent three months in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, the poorest country in the former Soviet Union, and they were able to better deal with snow than Washington, D.C.”

Knowles said he is tired of staying inside.

“The cabin fever is driving me nuts,” he said.

You can reach this staff writer at nglass@theeagleonline.com.