Northwestern, Evanston prepare for snowstorm

Grace Johnson

In preparation for an impending blizzard, Northwestern has launched a three-prong effort with Evanston and local school districts to monitor and accommodate inclement weather conditions throughout Tuesday and Wednesday. Both the University and city have cancelled events scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, and NU has also arranged for additional student transportation via the Frostbite Express.

University spokesman Al Cubbage said there has been “no discussion” to cancel classes Tuesday morning and said he thought the possibility was “very unlikely.”

Cubbage said NU’s threat assessment group has been holding conference calls to discuss weather preparation. The group, comprised of NU police, facilities management, Norris University Center officials and dining hall managers, has determined that the university is well-prepared to handle extreme winter weather, Cubbage said.

“We’ve run through what our preparations are,” he said. “All ground staff will be available. We have arranged for staff to stay on campus. Everything is stocked.”

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was scheduled to speak at NU’s law school on Tuesday, but NU announced Monday that the event had been cancelled and rescheduled due to weather conditions. Class cancellations are possible for Tuesday night, and the threat assessment group will be holding another conference call early Wednesday morning to reassess the situation, Cubbage said. NU last closed operations due to extreme winter weather on Jan. 15, 1979.

The main problem with inclement weather will be making sure students can make it to class, Cubbage said, but he is confident NU’s roads, parking lots and sidewalks will be clear.

“As someone who walks every day, I know I’m relieved when I step onto campus, because our sidewalks are always clear,” Cubbage said.

The university will be running the “Frostbite Express,” which will add extra buses for commuting, but shuttles may run behind schedule and SafeRide will likely not operate, Cubbage said. If enough dining hall staff are stuck at home due to unsafe conditions, plans are in place to consolidate dining options into Allison Hall, Sargent Hall and Foster-Walker Complex.

City officials met with school district officials Monday evening to coordinate efforts to keep clean-up efficient, cancellations up-to-date and snow alerts streaming constantly, said Community Information Coordinator Eric Palmer.

“This is going to be a lot of snow,” Palmer said. “It’s going to be pretty massive. We’re figuring there will be about two inches of snow an hour.”

The city expects the snow to pick up Tuesday afternoon, Palmer said. The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for the area through Wednesday and described the storm as “dangerous, multifaceted and potentially life-threatening.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Monday the possibility of 50 mph winds and waves on Lake Michigan which could reach 14 to 18 feet.

City streets will be manned by 22 different plow crews, with a separate crew working to make sure the fire stations remain clear, Palmer said.

While no school districts have called snow days Monday evening, the city has cancelled all administrative hearings for Wednesday. The city’s survey subcommittee meeting Tuesday has also been canceled.

The city of Evanston’s home page will be updated throughout the day with the latest alerts and information. The website will be a “one-stop-shop” for citizens, Palmer said.

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