Worcester Named Ninth Snowiest City in US
Published: Sunday, February 23, 2014
Updated: Sunday, February 23, 2014 20:02
In the past two weeks, major areas of the country, in particular the east coast, have been heavily affected by winter weather. The Golden Snow Globe, a website which tracks snowfall in cities of over 100,000, has ranked Worcester the ninth snowiest city in the nation for the current winter season. As of Tuesday, the National Weather Service reports that Worcester has received 32.5 inches of snow in the month of February alone. With the months of December and January included, that number rises to 71.4 inches. Although no major weather-related incidents in Worcester have been reported, the past week’s widespread storms have had drastic repercussions for multiple areas of the country. Last Saturday, coastal regions of Maine and Massachusetts experienced “blizzard-like conditions” with over a foot of accumulation, and thousands were impacted by extensive power outages on Cape Cod. On Monday, conditions in Chicago, IL forced airports to cancel over one thousand flights, and the same storm caused crashes in Michigan which closed portions of major highways. About 1.2 million utility customers along the east coast were left without power last week, and at least 25 deaths were reported as a result of the storm. The severity of the recent weather has placed fresh scrutiny on Holy Cross’ inclement weather policy.
College policy states that Holy Cross “normally does not close for inclement weather unless the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts declares a State of Emergency…all employees are expected to come to work during periods of inclement weather.” A Gubernatorial State of Emergency can be declared only upon the occurrence of a “natural or man-made disaster.” Employees who are unable to make it to campus must use vacation time, floating holidays, or personal time in order to receive pay for days missed due to weather. Sick time may not be used.
Last Thursday, many professors attempted to drive to campus as usual, only to be forced to turn back after encountering near-whiteouts and blizzard conditions on Interstate 290.
“Essentially forcing faculty and staff to commute in dangerous weather, often from as far away as Boston, puts them at risk, puts us at risk, and could potentially lead to disastrous outcomes,” said David Perretta, ’14. “If you look at the unique geography of our campus, snow, ice, and bad weather in general make Holy Cross a particularly bad place to be during storms. My room in Figge overlooks the parking lot, and the amount of near car crashes I saw last week is staggering. Frankly, I think the current weather policy is archaic and irresponsible.” Victoria Fritz, ’15, agrees with Perretta. “I know multiple professors who slept in their offices or even rented hotels in Worcester in order to avoid being docked pay. That shouldn’t happen.” Fritz also pointed out that the policy doesn’t take into account faculty and staff’s family situations. “If kids’ schools are canceled on a snow day, you can’t get a babysitter most of the time. It’s an awkward situation to put faculty in.”
During inclement weather, class cancellations are left up to the discretion of professors, which can result in inconsistencies between sections and departments. “I did have some classes canceled last week, even a biology lab, which almost never happens,” said Fritz. “It doesn’t seem right that the weather could be bad enough for a professor to cancel something as important as a three-hour lab, yet the community didn’t even receive an email warning about staying safe on campus.”
Meanwhile, other students were minimally impacted by the weather. Chris Gillis, ’14 was “totally unaffected” by the storm, with no classes canceled, but said that that should not necessarily have been the case. “There are comparable residential campuses in Worcester that did close last week, so I don’t understand why Holy Cross has professors coming in during storms, especially when so many commute long distances—it doesn’t seem safe to leave it to personal discretion. I think the weather policy is more unfair to faculty and staff than it is to students.” Despite the safety concerns that the storm raised both on and off campus, Worcester was one of the more minimally affected cities on the east coast. Atlanta, GA and Raleigh, NC, Southern cities which lack the infrastructure to handle even just a few inches of snow or ice, faced significant difficulties last week when abrupt school and business closures caused gridlock on major highways. Hundreds of drivers were forced to abandon their vehicles due to wrecks and engine fires, and thousands more remained stranded. The traffic chaos was eventually resolved, but power outages persisted for several days. Students in GA and NC enjoyed rare multi-day school cancellations as roads were cleared and utilities repaired. In contrast, the winter weather was business as usual for most New England residents. “It wasn’t quite sunny enough to wear shorts, but the flip-flops stayed,” said Garrett Bych, ’14. Transplants to the area, however, have a different perspective. As Atlanta native Seth Stokes, ‘17 put it, “All I want is to wear shorts again. That’s all I have to say.”