UR managed to escape any major damage over the weekend in the worst ice storm in twelve years.
“Considering the extent of the damage around upstate New York, the university made out quite well,” Director of River Campus Facilities and University Properties Jeff Foster said. “Only slight damage to university trees was seen on any campus.”
The Rochester area was hit hard, starting Thursday night, with a layer of ice that snapped tree limbs – downing power lines, damaging homes and blocking streets. According to National Weather Service Meteorologist Bill Hibbert, ice accumulations were about an inch and a half. Tree branches begin breaking with a half an inch and power lines go down with one inch of accumulation. A Winter Storm Warning was issued for all areas from Niagra to Oswego counties. “The limit is half an inch of ice or more for a warning to be sent out,” Hibbert said. “That’s the criteria for it to turn into a warning from an advisory.”
A state of emergency was declared in Monroe County early Thursday morning and was not lifted until yesterday afternoon.In all, 65,000 customers were left without power early Friday morning and 1,400 people lost phone service.
Though River Campus retained both utilities and phone service, Foster said that power was lost at two graduate housing areas – Whipple Park and River Road Complex around 1:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. Whipple Park houses about 500 residents and 44 live at River Road.Foster said that UR’s Emergency Response Plan was activated around 5:45 a.m. on Saturday morning. “In any emergency situation, the university’s foremost thought is that of the safety and security of the university community,” Foster said.
The Emergency Response Plan is a system set up to deal with any university emergency and involves an emergency operations center set up at Wallis Hall and staffed by six to 10 people. In addition, an operations sector command post, manned by eight to 12 additional staff members is set up in the facilities building on Wilson Blvd.
The university made provisions for students left without power. “At Whipple Park, temporary generators were acquired and hooked up to supply electricity for each of the building’s boilers and sump pumps, ensuring the residents would stay warm and dry throughout the incident,” Foster said.
At River Road, UR used its portable generator to supply both light and heat for that building.
In addition, UR set up a temporary shelter in the Georgen Athletic Center for anyone who still needed a place to sleep.
According to Administrator for Athletics and Recreation Jane Possee, no students used the shelter.
Many students were inconvenienced by the storm. “It made it impossible to go to campus over the weekend,” junior Michael Adelman said. “If this had happened in February, I probably wouldn’t have batted an eye.”Freshman Charles Codling is from Maryland and said he has never seen anything like last weekend’s storm. “I don’t really know what to expect, so I thought it was normal,” he said.
Hibbert said that temperatures all over the country have been colder than normal and that he hopes that spring is on its way.
“There has been a colder than normal pattern across the U.S.,” he said. “This was more or less a continuation of that. Hopefully we’ll see a change soon,” Hibbert said.
Additional reporting by Kerri Linden, Alissa Miller and Colin Brown.Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.