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May 10, 2017

Storm dumps two feet of snow on UMass campus

Nathalie Sczublewski/Collegian

The massive storm that pummeled much of New England over the weekend dumped almost 2 feet of snow on the area, but it spared the University of Massachusetts campus of any power outages or major damage.

There were no storm-related injuries reported in the area, according to UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski.

Brittany Decker, a meteorologist at Springfield-based WGGB-TV abc40, said the storm was “one for the record books.”

Westover Air Reserve Base, which calculates the official snowfall records for the area, recorded 20 inches of snow, an amount that nearly reached the 1949 record of 22 inches, Decker said.

In western Massachusetts, most areas saw between 1½ to 2 full feet of snow. Southwick saw the most snowfall, with about 28 inches gauged, according to Decker.

While the brunt of the storm arrived Friday evening into Saturday morning, officials decided to close campus from noon on Friday until midnight on Sunday.

The campus was originally supposed to reopen on Saturday at noon, but Blaguszewski said officials extended the break to give those clearing the snow a bit more time to work.

“Even with a large crew and equipment, it takes some time,” he said. “There’s a lot of snow to move. The Physical Plant has been working very hard and making great progress, but we decided it was best to provide them with more time to clear things out.”

On-campus storm cleanup and safety procedures, Blaguszewski said, included efforts from staff at the Physical Plant, who cleared sidewalks and parking lots; members of Residential Life, who made sure students were safe in their dorms; and dining hall staff, who made sure that on-campus food services were running smoothly during the storm. Campus police and public safety officials met regularly to ensure that all procedures were being followed, he said.

“We pull the whole team together,” Blaguszewski added.

Many students, meantime, hunkered down when the worst of the storm arrived.

Freshman Susmitha Saripalli, who lives in Dickinson Hall in the Orchard Hill Residential Area, said that she stocked up on food ahead of the storm. Besides that, though, she didn’t have to prepare much else.

Saripalli praised the communication tools the University used to inform students of storm precautions.

“I thought we were all well informed and, because of that, well prepared,” she said.

The University has a variety of ways in which to communicate to students about emergency situations or bad weather, from email and radio to Twitter and text messaging. Blaguszewski said it is “standard emergency practice” to keep those providing updates to the UMass community alert “round the clock.”

Kelsey Pratto, who lives in Wheeler Hall in the Central Residential Area, also thought the University did well with keeping students updated. Pratto described Friday night as being “like a regular Friday night, just less mobility.”

On Saturday afternoon, Gov. Deval Patrick lifted a travel ban that went to effect at 4 p.m. Friday. The order barred everyone but essential personnel and news media from traveling on roads.

Eleven deaths in the Northeast have been blamed on the storm, according to published reports.

Mitch Scuzzarella and George Felder contributed to this report. Chelsie Field can be reached at cfield@student.umass.edu.

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