Tag Archive: Weather

  1. Snow Day of Judgment

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    On an ordinary Friday night at Yale, numerous students — excited, bright-eyed and under various degrees of intoxication — stumbled to line up in the Woolsey Hall rotunda.

    Dressed in a haphazard assortment of glittery clothes, neon headbands and plastic bracelets, the students waited to get into Commons for a campus-wide dance event. Across the hall, Yale administrators, their guests and another group of students dressed in formal attire filled a dozen rows of seats in Woolsey, anticipating a world-class concert.

    At the same time, a group of international visitors stepped off a tour bus onto campus, chattering excitedly amongst themselves on Grove Street.

    Some lifted cameras to their faces.

    Others pulled open the doors of the rotunda, peering curiously inside.

    Suddenly — out of nowhere — an explosion on Grove Street blew out all the Woolsey windows.

    PREDICTING THE UNPREDICTABLE

    Maria Bouffard, Yale’s Director of Emergency Management passed the hypothetical scenario out to the 60 people seated around the table.

    The other members of the team read through the fact sheet as they passed it around, nodding and contributing their thoughts to the plan for how University administrators would proceed should the windows of Woolsey Hall really explode.

    Bouffard leads the University’s emergency response team, a group of administrators, staff and faculty on campus who meet once a month and are poised to react in the event of a crisis, be it nightmarish weather, a disease outbreak or worse. Three or four times a year, Bouffard stages a tabletop: a hypothetical situation to which the emergency response team constructs a comprehensive response while seated around a table.

    “You’d be very surprised about how you can feel your blood pressure moving up,” said team member and University Associate Vice President Martha Highsmith of the exercises. “People really get into it, which is good because you want that kind of adrenaline.”

    Some crises, like a hurricane or national disease outbreak, can be prepared for with advance notice. Others, such as a violent crime or fire, must be handled immediately and without hesitation. The emergency management team has a range of plans laid out for any type of emergency, which spell out the best orders of contact, roles for specific administrators, ways in which to prepare the campus and more, so that when the time comes, the team can spring into action.

    Vice President Linda Lorimer said that after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Yale recognized the need to adopt this continuous model of emergency preparedness and developed a serious dedication to creating plans of action for different scenarios. She added that a task force of staff members and administrators worked on emergency preparedness as parts of their jobs, but the University hired Bouffard four years ago when they realized the benefit of having someone work on the plans full-time.

    “I think we are a model institution for having really well organized protocols and lots of employees who are designated to be emergency responders,” University President Richard Levin said.

    Since 2001, the University’s emergency preparedness force has grown to 63 faculty and established connections with local and national emergency response networks, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Lorimer said.

    In addition to tabletops, Yale also conducts drills, in which emergency responders play out various scenarios. Highsmith said these are held rarely because they are both labor and time-intensive — in a recent drill, staff members had to set up a portable hospital in the gym and prepare to administer mass vaccinations, a necessary measure in the case of a smallpox outbreak, for example.

    Bouffard called Yale’s emergency readiness process “ongoing.”

    “It’s something we are always getting better at and talking about. It evolves and evolves and evolves,” she added. “Our plan doesn’t have time to sit on a shelf and get dusty.”

    The University has certainly had opporunity to put its plans to the test this year. Two extreme weather occurrences resulted in Yale canceling classes four times — an unthinkable volume, considering the last cancellation occurred in February of 1978. Though neither emergency involved window-shattering explosions (Highsmith noted that Bouffard does have a “pretty active imagination”), Hurricane Sandy and the recent blizzard hit New Haven with a vengeance, leaving the emergency response team the task of holding Yale together.

    READY, SET, RESPOND

    Yale and the rest of the Northeast received a few days’ notice before Hurricane Sandy was scheduled to touch down in New Jersey on Monday, Oct. 29. Accordingly, the emergency response team implemented the massive hurricane plan of action.

    The Yale community received the first email about Sandy from Vice President Linda Lorimer that Saturday morning, without knowing how important (or abundant) Lorimer’s emails would later become.

    After explaining that the University was closely watching the path of Hurricane Sandy, Lorimer concluded, “Let’s hope the storm turns right into the North Atlantic!”

    But turn into the Atlantic it did not.

    Behind the scenes, Lorimer, Highsmith and Bouffard coordinated with the predetermined emergency team of police officers, security officers, facilities staff, dining hall staff, custodial staff and Yale Health workers who would perform emergency duties through the storm. A team of 26 responders set up the Emergency Operations Center, or EOC, a situation room-type home base on the second floor of the Yale Police Department at 101 Ashmun St. The group camped out in the room for over two days, coordinating preparation and responses to the storm over conference calls with city and state officials.

    In the hours leading up to the storm, crews laid down sandbags around buildings with sloped walkways and entrances to prevent water from rushing in. Yale staff placed flood faxes — large, diaper-like sacks that retain up to 40 pounds of water — in various facilities to absorb flooding. Rafi Taherian, executive Director of Dining, coordinated emergency food deliveries ahead of time so that annexed students and freshmen could stock up on provisions. Meanwhile, Robert Klein, Deputy Director of Environmental Health and Safety, canvassed science laboratories to make sure various apparatuses were secure before the storm.

    Lorimer’s emails became more urgent. On Sunday afternoon, Lorimer announced the cancellation of Monday classes. The move was almost unprecedented — Yale hadn’t canceled classes since a massive blizzard body-slammed the city in 1978.

    “The first priority is life and safety,” Highsmith said. “If it’s not safe for people to be out, driving or even walking around, then classes have to give way.”

    With constant status updates from the city and storm projections coming in over conference calls multiple times a day, the 26 staff and administrators ate and slept in the EOC. On Monday, when winds of almost 90 m.p.h. started to bring down branches and power lines around campus, the group decided to cancel classes and activities on Tuesday as well.

    In 1978 — the last year that Yale canceled classes — the situation was less dire, but also more disorganized. Dining hall staff workers slept in offices and dining hall basements, and professors were trapped off campus. Most significantly, the University hardly made any contact with its students.

    FLASHBACK: FEBRUARY, 1978

    Barrett Ford ’80 woke up to a world of white.

    Outside his Davenport dorm room window, the ground was no longer visible — the grass and pavement were replaced by a relentless barrage from the sky, so bright that it was staggering to look at. Snow fell in a furious daze. Ford’s roommate, Kenneth Bass ’80, who was from South Carolina, had never seen the likes of such weather before, and excitedly ushered the both of them out into the street to witness it firsthand.

    They stood at the intersection of College and Elm, observing the buildings visible all around them, bathed in the eerie whiteness — Woolsey Hall, Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall. Bass wore a giant winter coat that his mother had purchased for him before he left the South for Yale (the “one time I got to wear it,” he noted). Ford had his camera with him, and he has kept the photographs from that first snow day for over 30 years now.

    “Even though I was used to slogging through all kinds of snow in the wintertime, this was something special,” Ford said. “We stood in the very center of Elm Street, this huge intersection. There wasn’t a car to be seen. White and snow all about. It was remarkable.”

    It was the first week of February in 1978 — the Northeastern United States blizzard had just hit Connecticut, and Yale’s campus was swathed in slush. Connecticut governor Ella T. Grasso ordered all state roads closed except for emergency travel for three days — essentially shutting down the entire state — and Yale issued the order to classes and operations entirely, said Levin, who was an associate professor at the time.

    Snowed in, Ford and Bass pushed their door open the next morning and noticed the freshly printed paper on the door. It announced that all University classes were canceled that day.

    “Because I was a dinosaur from the class of ’80, there was no such thing as texting or emailing or anything,” Ford said. “There were notices posted right there in the front entryway, because there was a lot of speculation [that classes would be canceled]. The storm was so intense.”

    April Alliston ’80 said that though she did not even remember that classes were canceled that year, she still remembered the storm simply for the seemingly unprecedented amount of snow that fell on campus. Several other alumni interviewed said they also did not recall details of the day — only the fact that they had never seen that amount of snow.

    During the blizzard itself, administrators did not actively prohibit students from venturing outside, and by no means did students hole up in their rooms. They took to the streets, whooping and playing in the snow. Bass said he does not recall receiving any instructions from the University regarding emergency procedures, curfews or warnings to stay inside.

    “What I remember is unmerciful taunting from my roommate from Wisconsin for us Easterners making a big deal out of a little bit of snow,” Andrew Lipka ’78 recalled. Lipka added that most of what he remembers from the blizzard involves alcohol — the drinking age was 18 at the time — as well as “well-lubricated snow fights” and an attempt at an impromptu imitation of Bladderball.

    A day after the storm hit, a Feb. 8, 1978, article in the News blared a headline across the front page: “SNOWSTORM BLITZES CAMPUS.” The report detailed students taking advantage of the snow by drift-diving, building snowmen in the Grove Street cemetery (“[The deceased] will appreciate it,” one student told the News that day) and engaging in impromptu athletics. One student, John Muir ’80, jumped from a third-floor Trumbull window and hit the courtyard below, and had to be taken to a New Haven hospital for treatment of his injuries.

    According to Lipka, the University was able to clear pathways fairly quickly, allowing for students to navigate across campus. Though the dining halls were not open right away, Lipka said he and his friends trudged across the street to Broadway Pizza — the “cousin of Yorkside Pizza” — to eat and were not too inconvenienced by the storm.

    “We were happy to have a day off classes,” Lipka said. “We just kind of took it in stride.”

    Ford said that due to the cancellation of classes, students “sort of had cabin fever during all the snow.”

    Despite the minor inconveniences, Ford’s father, a graduate of 1943, was envious of his son because during his time at Yale — as a student of a war class — the University never canceled classes at all. Indeed, Ford said, they probably “made you go to classes twice or something.”

    Levin said he recalls more power outages in the 1978 storm than in the more recent one. Having stayed home with his wife, professor Jane Levin, and two their young children, Levin said he did not go into campus for several days.

    Under the leadership of interim President Hanna Gray, the University implemented emergency management strategies that involved coordinating dining services and clearing the roads through campus. But it did not discourage students from going outside, and most do not remember the inconveniences — as Ford joked, the experience of such a blizzard as the one that hit the campus that year is “kind of like childbirth” to think about in retrospect: You retain the happy memories and “forget the hard parts, the adversities imposed.”

    “I’m sure they fed us, and I’m sure they kept us all informed,” he said. “The heat in Davenport in 1978 was kind of a hit-or-miss thing … we may have been a little cool. But I remember us being pretty comfortable.”

    Bass said he does not remember anyone doing much studying during the blizzard — mostly, students would drift into the jam-packed dining halls and stay for hours, chatting excitedly with their friends. Although televisions and radios kept students up-to-date on state emergency procedures, University information was mostly spread by word of mouth through students and the college deans and masters. For several days, there were questions of when classes would start up again.

    Ford and Bass still keep in touch with one another, even though they live on opposite sides of the country — 2,600 miles apart in Los Angeles, Calif., and Arlington, Va. To this day, Ford said, they still talk about the magic of the snow day 35 years ago.

    THE SNOW DAY AFTER TOMORROW

    Three decades later, the recent snowstorm blanketed campus and caused long-serving faculty members to hearken back to the “Blizzard of ’78.”

    Bouffard and Highsmith took charge and, with Sandy fresh in their minds, led the emergency response team in the effort to keep Yale community members safe and sound. Though the team made preparations before the storm, responding to the 34 inches of snow required additional effort.

    On Friday night, the snow was falling so thickly it was almost impossible to see. Some brave students attended their normal weekend activities and parties, and a poetry slam took place in the Afro-American Cultural House, though two of the teams could not make it.

    This time, Highsmith said the emergency response team did not sleep overnight in a central EOC, so they could sustain their energy over the longer storm.

    “If you’re sleeping on the floor of the police station for three or four days, that starts to get pretty stressful,” she said.

    So the emergency responders hunkered down in their residences this time around, spending the days on conference calls that included major point people across the campus for emergencies, city officials and state officials. They dialed in for the governor’s conference calls and spoke constantly with the fire chiefs and police chiefs in New Haven. They reviewed essential services like dining and Yale Health and coordinated between residential colleges, shaping plans for the next 24-hour period.

    Members of the emergency response team worked around the clock during and after the snow, staying in masters’ houses and the guest suites within residential colleges so they wouldn’t have to travel away from work. Bouffard said team members braved the unplowed roads to pick up staff members who wanted to work but were stranded at home. She added that they even received separate calls to transport two stranded people — a woman in labor and a doctor who needed to deliver a baby — to Yale-New Haven Hospital. (The three made it in time.)

    Students emerged from the warmth of their suites to revel in the photo opportunities provided by waist-deep snow, posing with snow banks towering over them at the sides of the roads. The huge mounds disappeared by middle of week, however, freeing up the sidewalks for student traffic between classes. Bouffard said the University had the snow removed and dumped into the Long Island Sound, using a special waiver from the state.

    ANOTHER ‘BLIZZARD OF THE CENTURY’

    On a car ride back to New Haven, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. — who had just touched down from a trip to Ireland, arriving Sunday afternoon in the midst of the storm — spoke with Levin on the phone about the snow. Peering out at the streets around him, DeStefano considered shutting down all city services and buildings. By the time the two met up in person upon DeStefano’s return, both decided it was most sensible to shut down the University as well.

    “We agreed it would be easier if we didn’t have thousands of people leaving their homes to come to work and students coming to school,” Levin said.

    Bouffard said the first priority was to clear major arteries on campus, such as Elm Street, so emergency vehicles could have access to campus. Next, the University and city brought payloaders in to clear paths for pedestrians and normal traffic. On Monday, DeStefano and Levin came to another consensus when the mayor told Levin he would prefer the University stayed closed another day.

    Bouffard, Highsmith, Levin and Lorimer all noted the importance of communication to the University’s emergency response efforts, both within and outside of Yale.

    “A major part of [emergency preparedness] is to develop networks with those in emergency operations in many other places — the state police, the city of New Haven, the FBI,” Lorimer said.

    And Yale has developed relationships with emergency preparedness groups at smaller colleges, Lorimer added, where Bouffard helps them develop their programs.

    The University’s emphasis on communication during emergencies today allows administrators to reach the entire student body within seconds — a drastic shift from 1978, when updates had to be copied and physically delivered to each Master’s Office.

    The Yale community received almost live updates during both Sandy and this month’s blizzard, unable to avoid the phone calls, voicemails, text messages and emails each time the University issued an official emergency notice of warnings or class cancellations. Between 1978 and today, the level of communication has soared.

    “I think today, we are generally much more organized about these types of things,” Levin said. “I think we were certainly better trained and better prepared [this year] for these types of things today than what would be the case 35 years ago.”

    Lipka, who still keeps in touch with Yale’s campus because his daughter is a current student, said he definitely noticed the “lack of expectation of communication” in 1978. Students 35 years ago did not expect any form of contact from the University, whereas today, students are flooded with information from administrators at every turn to ensure that they receive it. He called it “quite a contrast.”

    While students don’t tend to develop attachments to University administrators they never meet, Lorimer has created somewhat of a cult following for herself — perhaps an expected reaction to someone who cancels four days of classes. After students received her emphatic emails throughout both storms, Facebook statuses and tweets thanking Linda Koch Lorimer became chic, and according to Google Trends, Google searches of her name during the snow days more than doubled the previous peak during Sandy. A petition to elect Linda Lorimer as the next Pope circulated the Internet.

    Deanna Zhang ’15 said Lorimer is heralded as a hero among students after delivering good news on four occasions.

    “She is a god,” Zhang said. “She is everything good in life.”

    Lorimer responded that she thought the petition was pretty funny, adding that students at Yale are “extraordinarily humorous and thoughtful” with their praise.

    * * *

    The question remains — why, after 35 years of holding classes without interruption, has the University had to cancel four classes this year?

    Levin called the year “unusual,” but said he couldn’t give further reason for the extreme weather patterns New Haven has seen in the past few months.

    “I don’t predict which way the stock market is going to go and I don’t try to predict what’s happening with the weather,” he added.

    But Highsmith and Bouffard have another explanation for the cancellations.

    “Climate change,” Highsmith said. “I think this is the new normal.” She pointed to Hurricane Irene in 2011 and a snowstorm that October that crippled the state with weeklong power outages, in addition to Hurricane Sandy and the February 2013 snowstorm.

    “It is the new normal,” Bouffard added. “Either that, or really bad luck.”

    Whether it’s misfortune or worsening weather patterns, Lorimer said the University will respond to whatever the future brings.

    “It’s like carrying an umbrella,” she said. “We hope we can prepare for [emergencies], and that they don’t occur.”

  2. After Sandy, recovery process begins

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    The hurricane may be over, but the clean up has just begun.

    For the next three days, Yale will offer support services — such as warm showers, ice and discounted lunches — to all faculty, staff and students who have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy, announced University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews ’83 LAW ’86 and Vice President for Human Resources and Administration Michael Peel in a Tuesday afternoon email to the Yale community.

    Several hotels will also offer a lower rate for Yale employees, wrote Goff-Crews and Peel in the email. These hotels include the Hampton Inn and Suites in West Haven, the Holiday Inn in North Haven and the Fairfield Inn in Wallingford, Conn.

    In addition, Payne Whitney Gymnasium reopened Tuesday afternoon, making its shower facilities available to members of the Yale community from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, with regular hours beginning on Thursday.

    Hot lunch will be served in Commons for $5 through Friday, and ice will be available at the corner of Grove and College streets each morning and evening.

    The email also instructed community members to call 203-432-5552 Tuesday or Wednesday to “report any critical immediate clothing needs or long-term housing issues,” and provided contact information for childcare resources and various essential services.

  3. Weather advisory warns 90 mph winds

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    New Haven can expect increasing rain and wind gusts up to 90 mph as Hurricane Sandy continues this afternoon, with thunderstorms occurring after midnight tonight, according to the National Weather Service. Flooding is likely in New Haven, with a storm surge rising anywhere from 3 to 6 feet.

    The storm is expected to reach peak intensity in southern Connecticut between 3 p.m. Monday and 3 a.m. Tuesday, according to CBS Local. The surge is expected to swell to a height from 7 to 11 feet, which is about double the levels recorded during Hurricane Irene last year.

    Conn. Gov. Dannel Malloy closed state highways to all traffic at 1 p.m.

    In an email sent to Jonathan Edwards College, JE Master Penelope Laurans wrote Yale will probably sustain power throughout the storm, though it is likely that many Connecticut residents will not.

    Around 3 p.m., Malloy tweeted that Connecticut residents who lose power should not expect it restored quickly.

    “Utility crews cannot risk lives to fix power during storm. If you lose power, plan for it to be out throughout duration of storm,” he wrote.

    As of 2 p.m., Sandy is moving northwest from offshore west of Virginia at a speed of about 28 mph. The hurricane is expected to make landfall in southern New Jersey by early evening.

    The National Weather Service has announced a High Wind Warning, Coastal Flood Warning, Flood Warning and Hazardous Weather Outlook for New Haven. The forecast warns that “a flood warning means flooding is occurring or is imminent” and “a significant threat to life and property exists” during a High Wind Warning.

  4. UPDATE: All classes canceled Monday due to storm

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    All classes and “non-essential services” will be canceled Monday due to Frankenstorm, Vice President Linda Lorimer announced in a Sunday email. Administrators will notify the Yale community whether Tuesday classes will also be canceled by 2 p.m. on Monday.

    Read the full email below:

    To the Yale Community

    Re: CLASSES AND NON-ESSENTIAL SERVICES CANCELLED FOR MONDAY

    From Linda Koch Lorimer

    REGULAR UPDATES ON THE WEB – Please monitor www.emergency.yale.edu for both weather updates and announcements.

    FACULTY AND STUDENTS – ALL CLASSES CANCELLED IN ALL SCHOOLS OF YALE UNIVERSITY FOR MONDAY, OCTOBER 29. A decision about Tuesday classes will be made by Monday AT 2 PM, at the latest. After the storm system passes, each Dean will be conferring with the faculty of his or her School about any arrangements for make-up classes.

    STAFF – ONLY ESSENTIAL STAFF ARE REQUIRED TO COME TO WORK ON MONDAY. We all owe a great debt to the hundreds of essential staff who have already made plans to be on campus starting tonight and/or tomorrow to care for the campus and undertake essential services ranging from dining to health services to utilities, police/security and grounds—and many others. If you have any doubt about whether you are considered an essential service provider, please contact your supervisor immediately.

    NOTE: Those staff with clinical responsibilities for patients at Yale Medical Group or the Hospital will receive a special email from the Medical School tonight to outline which staff will be needed to report to work since some patients will be seen tomorrow.

    For all staff who do not provide essential services, your work is cancelled for Monday and you should not report to work. Because the University is undertaking the almost unprecedented action of cancelling classes and closing offices on Monday, you will receive your regular pay and not be asked to use vacation/sick time. We will make the decision about Tuesday work requirements by Monday early evening.

    YALE HEALTH – Urgent Care will continue to operate throughout the storm. All non-emergency appointments for Monday will need to be rescheduled. Please call to reschedule once the storm has passed.

    OFFICES ARE CLOSED for Monday except for essential services. This means that all of the libraries, the Payne Whitney Gym, and regular student support services will not be available. As noted above, the Medical School will be making its own decisions about the clinical practices for patients.

    ALL EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES ARE CANCELLED FOR MONDAY. This includes rehearsals, performances, varsity, club, and intramural sports practices and contests, and the like.

    TRANSPORTATION – The fixed-route Yale Shuttle System will not be operating after Midnight tonight. The door-to-door Safe Rides will also stop operations at midnight; if you have a true transportation emergency, please call 203-785-5555. We will post when Yale Transportation Services resume on www.emergency.yale.edu

    ON-CAMPUS CURFEW – At some point, we will issue a campus curfew for those living on campus. We will issue a separate notice once we have clarity about when it should begin.

    DINING. Separate emails are being sent to Yale College students with details about their dining and other arrangements.

    For Graduate and Professional students with dining contracts, limited dining will be provided at HGS, the Divinity Refectory, and Marigold’s at the Medical School on Monday (brunch from 11 to 1 pm; dinner from 5 pm to 7 pm.) Other satellite dining facilities will not be operating Monday.

    COMMUNICATIONS. We encourage all students, staff, and faculty to communicate with your families in advance of the storm. Keep your cell phone batteries charged. Remember that cell phone towers may be affected by the high winds that are anticipated, and telephone land lines may not function if the power is interrupted.

    HELP AFTER THE STORM. To help with those who will lose power, the Gym will be open for showers; Dining has ordered ice and will offer reduced price meals in Commons once it reopens. We will work with individuals and families at Yale who suffer particular damage to see how we can rally to be of help.

    IN THE EVENT OF AN EMERGENCY, DIAL 911 or the Yale Police at 203-432-4400.

  5. Professors cancel classes due to Frankenstorm

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    In light of the impending storm, many professors have canceled their courses, and there are rumors that the University as a whole will follow suit. According to one security guard, his crew had been told that all classes will be canceled Monday because of Frankenstorm.

    In addition, all campus shuttle services will stop beginning at midnight tonight, according to a Sunday email from Ed Bebyn, manager of Yale University Parking and Transit.

    In the meantime, Cross Campus has compiled a list of classes and exams that have been stalled in anticipation of the stormy intruder (we have your best interests at heart). Keep checking back for updates:

    1) HIST 223J: “Cultural History of World War One” with Bruno Cabanes

    Due to hurricane Sandy, I am not sure to be able to come to campus on Tuesday afternoon. I’ll do my best, I will keep you posted and hope that all is well with you.

    2) BIOL 102: “Cell Bio & Membrane Physiology” with Mark Mooseker

    We’ll talk about that tomorrow. If there is a tomorrow.

    3) ENGL 246: “Introduction to Verse Writing” with Louise Gluck

    4) ENGL 467: “Journalism” with Steve Brill

    I have decided that I will never be able to get to New Haven tomorrow (much less get out), even if Yale has classes. So….the class is postponed.

    5) GMAN 110: “Elementary German” with Theresa Schenker

    I am sure you have all heard about the storm that is apparantly heading our way. In order to avoid anyone getting caught in the storm I am cancelling class for tomorrow. Instead, you will complete the class work at home.

    6) ITAL 120: “Elementary Italian II” with Anna Lacovella

    Due to weather alert we are not meeting for the next two days. I will keep you updated as we get through the storm.

    7) ASTR 110: “Planets and Stars” with Louise Edwards

    In a Sunday email to the Yale community, Vice President Linda Lorimer said an official update will be sent no later than 6:30 p.m. Sunday night. Check back for updates.

    Email crosscampus@yaledailynews.com if you know of any classes that have been canceled because of Hurricane Sandy.

  6. City calls state of emergency

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    Mayor John DeStefano Jr. announced a state of emergency in New Haven Sunday afternoon, issuing mandatory evacuations for areas with the highest risk of flooding.

    DeStefano said in a statement that New Haven public schools will close Monday and Tuesday in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy, and that residents should prepare for extended power outages. Evacuations of flood-prone regions will commence at 8:30 a.m. Monday, with the order remaining in place until the noon high tide on Tuesday.

    “Residents should take this storm very seriously,” DeStefano said. “The city is preparing for storm surges in excess of Hurricane Irene.”

    Residents of evacuation areas are due to be informed today of the order by the Fire Department, Police Department and Livable City Initiative, with Career High School serving as an emergency shelter.

    DeStefano warned residents to be wary while driving in case of the temporary absence of traffic signs. Transportation by train to and from the city will halt after 7 p.m. when the Metro-North lines close.

    Vice President Linda Lorimer said in an email to the Yale community Sunday afternoon that the University will be consulting closely with the New Haven officials to plan for the storm. She said Yale will issue a full update about its storm response no later than 6:30 p.m.

  7. Tornado watch in effect for New Haven

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    If you are planning on leaving your room today, you may want to think twice: the National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for New Haven County (that’s us), along with much of Connecticut and parts of New York and New Jersey.

    According to this map from the National Weather Service, there’s a 5 to 10 percent chance a tornado will touch down in New Haven sometime day. The NWS is also predicting showers and thunderstorms likely through 1 a.m. today.

    A tornado’s already touched down today in Queens and Brooklyn, according to the New York Daily News, and rain has delayed the U.S. Open semifinal. The tornado warning remains in effect until 9 p.m.

    For a reminder of what a tornado can do, check out this footage of the Brooklyn Tornado of 2010:

  8. Takeaways from the Great Snowprise of 2K12

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    The National Weather Service predicted yesterday morning that three to five inches of snow would fall in New Haven, tapering off in the early afternoon. We blogged accordingly — stay inside, watch a movie, whatever 2K12, this is just standard winter.

    Turns out the storm was a lot more serious than the NWS first thought. By nightfall, eight inches had fallen in New Haven proper. The state high was in North Haven, which received 12 inches. Not quite a snowpocalypse, but certainly a snowprise.

    Mayor John DeStefano declared a snow emergency in downtown New Haven, which allowed him to tow all cars parked on downtown streets between 2 and 6 a.m. (We watched a car get towed on Howe Street at 3 a.m.)

    All that snow made driving hazardous, so there were hundreds of wrecks across the state, the Courant reported. In the peak of the storm, at around 11:45 a.m., we drove to IKEA yesterday with our mom, and conditions were near-whiteout. The IKEA was totally empty, too. By our 7 p.m. trip to Lowe’s, though, the streets were in large part clear. And in keeping with the chill vibe of our first post yesterday, no one was seriously injured in a car crash and no one lost power. Children of all ages came out to play. It was perfect.

  9. Wake up, it’s snowing!

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    The weatherman wasn’t lying this time — Snow Bulldogs across campus are waking up to several inches of freshies on the ground. Total accumulation will be between three and five inches, mainly before 3 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. State officials aren’t too concerned about “light, fluffy snow” that “should taper off by mid-afternoon,” but a number of towns — including Hartford — have issued parking bans, anyway, the Courant reported.

    Looks like we’ll be fine. You probably shouldn’t drive, and you probably should do all of the following:

    1) Put on your biggiest, puffiest clothes. It’s not actually that cold out, but you want to look like it is for the Facebook pics.

    2) Roll around in the snow at least once. Snow angels are adorable and if you are wearing a big coat you’ll stay warm.

    3) Go back inside, act like it’s a huge storm, sip cocoa/cider and smile. It’s a beautiful day.

    4) Watch this, and this, and then the whole movie.

    Stay cozy, Yale.

  10. Two Storm Panel makes 82 recommendations

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    Connecticut’s Two Storm Panel filed its final report Monday, including 82 recommendations for the state to take in order to prepare for storms like August’s Hurricane Irene.

    The panel was originally formed by Gov. Dannel Malloy after Irene knocked out power to thousands of state residents and was expanded after October’s snowstorm that left even more Connecticut residents without electricity. It recommended setting performance standards for utilities companies following storms and pairing the standards with monetary penalties, should the companies fail to meet them. It also emphasized the need for stronger utilities infrastructure, and suggested a tax increase on utilities to finance such projects.

    The report included recommendations to monitor rising sea levels as a result of climate change as well as trim tree branches that present a danger to power lines. Malloy said his administration would have a response to the reports by the end of the week.

    Hurricane Irene reportedly killed at least two people and left more than 700,000 utilities customers without power. The October snowstorm, meanwhile, dumped up to two feet of snow and left over 850,000 residents without electricity or heat.

  11. Flowers are blooming in the Branford courtyard

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    Last January, Elis were prepping for 18 to 25 inches of snow to blanket campus. This year, yellow flowers are blooming in Branford.

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    English Prof. Leslie Brisman noticed the flowers, which he identified as forsythia, outside the window of his Saybrook College office, he said in an email to the News last week.

    “Is this a horticultural reminder to all students that what is about to start is the ‘spring’ semester?” Brisman asked. “Or is it Yale’s own answer to Republican deniers of global warming?”

    Eric Larson, manager of the Marsh Botanic Gardens on Science Hill, confirmed that the flowers appeared to be forsythia, but said he is not shocked to see them in bloom, given this year’s “rather warm” winter. Forsythia, he said, is more likely to bloom out of season than other flowering plants of the early spring.

    “Given a southern exposure — facing south, with walls, dense shrubbery or other protection on its north side — it would not surprise me in the least to see forsythia blooming this time of year,” Larson said.

    The color may not last for long, though: temperatures are expected to dip into the 20s tonight and tomorrow, and there’s a chance of light snow this evening.