The Elm City is bracing for what some meteorologists are calling the “storm of the year,” which will slam into the East Coast in full force starting Friday evening and leave the region blanketed in at least a projected foot and a half of snow.
The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning and coastal flood advisory for New Haven Thursday afternoon, which will remain in effect until 1 p.m. Saturday. The advisory warned of poor visibility conditions, snow accumulation ranging from 18 to 24 inches with winds up to 55 miles per hour and potential power outages due to fallen trees.
University administrators and public officials across the region took measures in advance of the storm Thursday to ensure public safety. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy both ordered all nonessential government personnel to remain at home Friday, a Friday meeting of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission was rescheduled for the following week and train and airline companies reduced or canceled service in the area.
While city officials did not anticipate heavy snowfall for most of Friday, they said crisis teams are poised to respond to developing weather conditions with over 30 snowplowing vehicles on 24-hour reserve. The city issued a Thursday press release urging residents to avoid driving, announcing the Friday closure of New Haven public schools and implementing a downtown parking ban starting at 10 p.m. Friday. The city’s Chief Administrative Officer and Director of Emergency Management Robert Smuts ’01 said his staff also reached out to three local shelters, which will remain open during the day and dispatch outreach teams to take the homeless off the streets.
“After Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, we got it down now,” City Hall spokeswoman Anna Mariotti said. “We’ve had a lot of practice over the last couple years.”
The city will continue to post storm updates to its website.
Maria Bouffard, Yale’s director of emergency management, said the University’s emergency response team — which is comprised of about 50 administrators and directors of campus facilities — is also in constant communication with one another about storm preparedness. Her team sent out emails to faculty and staff and posted announcements on Yale’s emergency operations website on Thursday regarding changes in University operations due to the imminent blizzard.
Some colleges in the region, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brown University, announced the cancellation of Friday classes. But University Vice President Linda Lorimer wrote in a Thursday message to the Yale community that Friday classes will be unaffected, unless individual professors cancel classes because they cannot commute to campus and will instead communicate with students via email or the classesv2 website. Some University events, though, were affected by the storm. Yale GALA’s second LGBT reunion, scheduled to take place this weekend, was canceled.
Though the storm will make travel hazardous, students at least can rest assured they will not go hungry — residential colleges will serve dinner from 4–6 p.m., an hour earlier than usual, while retail units of Yale Dining — including Thain Family Café and Durfees — will close early Friday at 5 p.m. Conditions permitting, Saturday brunch will remain unaffected.
Yale College Dean Mary Miller said some dining halls may be closed, but all residential colleges will remain supplied with power. Bouffard said the University has contingency plans should dining hall staff be stranded on campus overnight.
“They are considered essential to the operations of the University,” Bouffard said of dining staff.
Lorimer said Yale’s shuttle bus service is slated to stop at 3 p.m. Friday with no door-to-door pickup that night. But should students get stranded, Lt. Jay Jones of Yale Police said they should contact the department via Bulldog Mobile. He added that the department does not anticipate any changes in its everyday operations and patrols as a result of the storm.
“We don’t expect anything out of the ordinary, but if we get out of the ordinary, we are ready for that, too,” Jones said.
Temperatures in the area are expected to drop into the 20s by Friday evening.