Oswego State cancels afternoon classes due to snow

Oswego State issued a campus-wide class cancellation last Friday for the second time this school year, this time due to the nor’easter that brought blizzard-like conditions to several New England states.

At 8:06 a.m. on Friday Feb. 8, Oswego State notified students and faculty that all classes and activities beginning at 11:30 a.m. or later were canceled. The last time classes were canceled on a campus-wide scale was in October when Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the east coast. Prior to then, classes had not been canceled since March 5, 2008, when heavy snow fell on the area, according to the Office of Public Affairs.

“I don’t know why, but I thought it strange we had classes canceled Friday with only 4-8 inches of snow expected from 4 p.m. on,” said Dr. Scott Steiger, a professor in the Meteorology department at Oswego.

Dr. Steiger also said that snow was not expected to fall in Oswego before 4 p.m., after most classes were done for the day.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency that afternoon, but the parts of the state most affected by the storm were the New York City, Long Island and surrounding areas.

The storm, nicknamed “Nemo” by the Weather Channel, dumped several feet of snow over much of the Northeast, accompanied by hurricane force winds in some spots. According to the National Weather Service, locations in five states, including New York, reported snow amounts of 30 inches or more. Such snow with winds exceeding 50 mph caused power outages and travel nightmares across the region.

The class cancellation announcement came as a surprise to many, not only because Oswego State was not directly threatened by the storm, but also because Oswego State will normally remains open during some of the worst lake effect snow events.

“The forecast indicated the possibility of perhaps more serious conditions than resulted,” said Nicholas Lyons, vice president for Oswego State’s Division of Administration and Finance. “The worst of the snow was expected to fall in the afternoon hours when many faculty and students would likely be getting on the road. The snow was expected to be heavy and slick, making for more dangerous driving than we experience with the lighter, drier lake-effect snows.”

The Emergency Information section of the Office of Public Affairs states that driving conditions, for faculty and student commuters, are extremely important factors when the decision to cancel classes is considered.

“The weather and roads were surprisingly clear both there and back,” said student commuter Rebekah Murray, who drove home shortly after the cancellation announcement was made. “It made me think that the expected storm might not come. I live along the lake and usually get hit about the same as Oswego does with weather, so when my area was getting pounded by wind and snow, I was very happy to not be stuck in Oswego.”

According to the Procedures for Canceling Classes section of Emergency Information Procedures, the president or the president’s designee is faced with the ultimate decision to cancel classes at both the college and the Education Center in Phoenix, unless ordered by a higher authority, such as the governor.

“When grounds staff and university police believe that they cannot maintain safe access to and from campus facilities due to conditions or forecasted conditions, they alert the president or president’s designee,” Lyons said. “We interact directly with local forecasters before making a decision, taking into consideration travel concerns and class schedules.”

The president consults with the Associate Vice President for Facilities and the chief of University Police Chief before making a decision. Once a decision is made, the President or the President’s designee will alert the Public Affairs Director, who will send a message via “New York Alert” and post a message on the college’s web page.

Class cancellations this year due to both Hurricane Sandy and Winter Storm Nemo were precautions taken by campus leaders to ensure the safety of students and faculty members.