While national weather forecasts have predicted a particularly freezing and snowy winter, city and University officials are confident they can handle the rough weather.
Yale and New Haven administrators are prepared to deploy all measures necessary to combat the extraordinarily cold and dry winter that meteorologists have forecasted. New Haven Chief Administrative Officer Robert Smuts ’01 said that lessons learned from 2011’s Hurricane Irene and October storm have made him confident that everything will go smoothly in the event of another emergency.
“In 2011 we put together a really excellent emergency evacuation plan, and we’re still ready for anything that comes our way,” Smuts said.
While last year saw a warmer-than-usual winter, meteorologists across the nation have predicted that large snowstorms will pound the Northeast next January and February. In January 2011, New Haven saw what Mayor John DeStefano Jr. called a “snow emergency” at the time, with all but the most essential city and University services reduced in the wake of heavy snowfall.
City Hall spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton ’04 said that the primary lesson that the city administration took from unpleasant weather in 2011 was the importance of coordination and communication with city agencies and New Haven residents. While Smuts said winters in New Haven can sometimes be as harsh as they are in places like Buffalo, N.Y., he said City Hall does not have the equipment or the budget of cities more accustomed to fighting snow. The Elm City will still be able to tackle the snowstorms, he said, emphasizing that the city’s experiences with 2011 weather proved that New Haven is “one of the best communities in the state in responding” to weather emergencies.
“We’re not going to go overboard [with the city’s response], but we’re also going to be more willing to call in for help when we need it,” he said.
Smuts put particular emphasis on the city’s improved systems of communication with residents, which keep them updated on everything from what to expect from a storm to whether their cars need to be towed. He said this communication got better with new technology, but also due to the administration’s new policy of being “more aggressive” about responding to New Haven residents.
Yale Director of Emergency Management Maria Bouffard said that Yale is also prepared to keep Yale students safe in any weather scenario.
“If something comes up that was different [from] past years we are perfectly prepared to care for that,” Bouffard said. “Our number one priority is that the Yale community is safe.”
Bouffard added that the Yale Emergency Operations team works very closely with the city of New Haven, but that any emergency related toYale campus — weather or not — is the team’s responsibility.
The Yale Facilities team takes care of everything from keeping the dining halls functioning to making sure the walkways are clear when there is heavy snow, Bouffard said.
Yale Police Department Assistant Chief Steven Woznyk said that the YPD works with the Yale Emergency Operations team and the city of New Haven to monitor weather emergencies. The YPD has set plans to manage winter weather emergencies and is prepared with a set of four-wheel drive vehicles, Woznyk wrote in a Wednesday email to the News.
Woznyk added that the YPD had full coverage of emergency operations in previous years, including Hurricane Irene, and that the department undertakes after-action reviews after each “extreme weather experience.”
“Police and security take great pride in — and do an outstanding job — planning for and responding to any weather conditions,” Woznyk said.
Smuts and Bouffard agree that the response of residents to emergency provisions has always been very good, although Bouffard said that Yale students have always been very responsive to requests to stay indoors and not “go out in the middle of the hurricane.”
New Haven recieves an annual 6.2 inches of snow per year.