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Northwestern closes, Evanston shuts down amidst snow, record low temperatures

Annabel Edwards/Daily Senior Staffer
Students walk on the Lakefill. Northwestern was closed Tuesday for the second day in a row.

Ciara McCarthy and Ally Mutnick

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Northwestern will reopen Wednesday after record-low temperatures and nearly two feet of snow caused the University to delay the start of Winter Quarter for two days.

The cold weather compounded nearly a week of heavy snowfall in Evanston, which effectively shut the city down on Monday. The decision to close the University on Monday and Tuesday was made by University President Morton Schapiro and members of his senior staff, NU spokesman Al Cubbage said.

“It was clear the weather was deteriorating,” Cubbage said. “The situations at the airports had really gotten worse. There were a lot of flight cancellations at both O’Hare and Midway.”

Cubbage said the “unusual combination” of record-low temperatures and delays in air travel and public transportation in the Chicago area, an event he cannot recall happening in nearly 17 years at NU, caused the two-day closure.

As of Monday afternoon, Residential Services reported about 20 to 25 percent of students living on campus had not yet arrived at their dorms, Cubbage said.

On Monday, city government was limited to essential staff only.

“Our main message is that we’re really encouraging residents to stay home,” city manager Wally Bobkiewicz said during a teleconference Sunday.

City officials have been battling the cold and the snow for more than a week. Chicago temperatures dropped to minus 15 degrees Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service. Snow began falling Dec. 31, and at least 22 inches accumulated by the time it stopped Jan. 5, public works director Suzette Robinson estimated.

A threat assessment group composed of staff members from University Police, the Office of the Registrar, Residential Services and other NU offices made the recommendation to top administrators that the University close after assessing the weather and travel conditions for Monday and Tuesday.

While NU remained closed Tuesday, both the University of Chicago and DePaul University reopened campuses after Monday closures. Evanston Township High School and District 65 schools closed Monday and remained closed Tuesday. The schools will reopen Wednesday.

Daniel McAleer, deputy chief of University Police, said the department saw few issues on Monday. Most calls for help came from residents experiencing car trouble due to the cold temperatures.

1835 Hinman briefly lost power Sunday but it was restored quickly with emergency generators, Cubbage said.

McAleer, who was part of the threat assessment group, said local transportation issues made him hesitant to recommend keeping the University open Monday and Tuesday.

“The CTA, the Metra, the El and not all of those services are running at normal operations,” McAleer said. “People can get stuck at platforms or bus stops waiting for a bus that’s not coming when it’s scheduled to come.”

Evanston has focused on clearing primary and residential roads of snow in the last week. Officials declared a snow emergency and snow route parking ban for Jan. 2 and 3 to clear primary roads of cars to facilitate plowing. Extra plowing crews have been working nearly around the clock to keep the roads clear.

Evanston’s last major snowstorm, in 2011, allowed the city to improve its approach to winter weather, Robinson said.

“We learned our lesson well from the (2011) blizzard,” she said. That was really our training.”

Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl praised city staff for their handling of the week-long winter storm and said she had received numerous compliments from residents.

The last week of winter weather was especially challenging for city crews because it snowed consistently throughout the week.

“This weather was more costly in terms of material and personnel because we’ve been moving the snow around for several days,” Robinson said.

Class rescheduling is not being coordinated by the registrar’s office and the decision to reschedule is being left to the undergraduate deans, University Registrar Jaci Casazza said.

Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences announced via email Monday that it would shorten its reading period by two days, with make-up classes being held March 11 and 12.

If professors want to reschedule class outside of the reading period, they should contact the registrar’s office to ensure there will be no conflicts with students’ schedules, Casazza said.

Evening classes and final exams were last cancelled in June 2013 due to severe thunderstorms. The University also closed in February 2011, canceling classes and midterms.

“This is a tremendous snow,” Cubbage said. “Faculty have been instructed to accommodate students as much as possible.”

Email: allymutnick@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @allymutnick

Email: mccarthy@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @mccarthy_ciara

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