University Cancels Friday Classes, Braces for Major Storm

February 04, 2010

Update: Snowfall Expected to Be 12-18 Inches

February 6, 2010 — (Update) Friday night's sleet will hold snow accumulation to 12 to 18 inches, not the 20 to 30 inches earlier predicted. The University of Virginia Bookstore and Rotunda closed Saturday, but U.Va.'s men's basketball game against Wake Forest University went on at John Paul Jones Arena.

February 4, 2010 — With a massive winter storm bearing down on Central Virginia and a local emergency declared, the University of Virginia has announced that it is canceling Friday's classes and telling nonessential employees to stay home.

The storm is expected to begin dumping 20 to 28 inches of heavy, wet snow on the area at 6 a.m. on Friday, with conditions rapidly deteriorating after noon, according to the National Weather Service, which issued a winter storm warning. Snow is expected to end around 10 p.m. on Saturday. The forecast also calls for winds of 10 to 15 mph, gusting to 25 mph, during the storm.

Driving conditions Friday evening and Saturday are expected to be "hazardous or nearly impossible," Marge Thomas, the local emergency management coordinator, told a meeting of police, fire and rescue officials on Thursday.

Jerry Stenger of U.Va.'s State Climatology Office said Thursday that he mostly agreed with the National Weather Service outlook. He suggested that sleet may mix in at some point, reducing the overall accumulation to between 16 and 24 inches most places, and that winds could be slightly stronger, leading to drifting and blowing snow.

University officials were making plans to keep essential services going through the storm, housing those workers in local hotels.

Facilities Management
staffers will begin working 12-hour shifts Friday morning; extra food and propane – in case the power goes out – has been delivered to Dining Services. Student Health is closed, and the Aquatic & Fitness Center may remain open if enough employees are available to staff it.

Parking and Transportation requested that essential employees park in the University's parking garages and not on surface lots.

Essential employees who report to work will be given comp time; nonessential employees who do not come into work will receive agency closing leave, according to an e-mail from Leonard W. Sandridge, U.Va.'s executive vice president and chief operating officer, announcing the University's plans.

"This has been an extraordinary winter that has given us more than our share of opportunities to test our inclement weather plans," Sandridge wrote.

"I am grateful for all those emergency personnel who worked through last weekend's snow event and who will be on hand again this weekend. And, as always, I appreciate the contributions all of our employees make to the University's daily operations."

The University is fully stocked with salt and sand, said Jay Klingel, Facilities Management's director of operations and management, who on Thursday was mulling locations to deposit truckloads of snow that must be removed.

He hinted that he had some ideas, but added, "Wherever it is, it won't be popular."

Their task won't be easy, Stenger warned. "This is not going to be a real fluffy snow," he said. "It's heart-attack snow, the kind of snow that will wear you out when you try to shovel it."

At the Medical Center, those working Friday shifts were advised to plan on remaining in the hospital or at nearby hotels for 72 hours.

The Department of Athletics has canceled Friday's home women's tennis match with Winthrop and postponed Saturday's scheduled home wrestling matches with Old Dominion and George Mason to an as-yet-unspecified date.

A final determination has not yet been made about Saturday's home men's basketball game against Wake Forest. Athletics was in discussion with the Atlantic Coast Conference office on Thursday.

Charlottesville and Albemarle County officials declared a local state of emergency on Thursday and will activate their emergency operations center Friday morning. Monticello High School has been designated as an emergency shelter.

"All residents should heed this declaration and use it as an opportunity to get ready for a long-term, heavy snow event that might lead to power outages and disruptions to local communications," Thomas said Thursday in a press release. "Local emergency responders are ready for whatever comes from this storm, but it is important for the community to take action today to be ready for tomorrow."

City officials were asking residents to avoid parking on the streets after midnight and banned parking in the downtown area and along West Main Street. Free parking will be available in the Market Street and Water Street garages. Cars left along the downtown streets and West Main will be towed, according to the city's snow information Web page.

The University last canceled classes for snow after nine inches fell in February 2003.

This could well become the snowiest winter in Charlottesville history, Stenger said. If at least 18.3 inches fall this weekend, this winter's cumulative snowfall will surpass the record of 54.7 inches set in 1995-96, according to records that date back to the 1880s.

And there are still six more weeks of snow season remaining, he said – and there is some hint of additional (but lesser) snow in the works for Tuesday.

At least the long-range forecast for next weekend looks snow-less, he added.

— By Dan Heuchert