The first winter storm of 2014, dubbed “Hercules” by national media, caused the University to close campus to non-essential employees on Friday morning and afternoon. A 5:50 a.m. update on the University website announced the closure.
Hercules began on Thursday night and primarily struck the Northeast, as well as parts of the Midwest. New Jersey declared a state of emergency, along with New York State. Up to 10 inches of snow fell across the state, causing the shutdowns of many schools and businesses, according to The Weather Channel.
Less than 10 percent of staff and faculty were expected to report during the closure. Most libraries remained open on a limited schedule. The administration attempted to keep as many libraries open as possible, University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua said, in an effort to provide places to read, study and find refuge from inclement weather to the many students and faculty on or near campus.
However, because a shortage of staff members was able to reach campus safely, Mendel Music Library, Mudd Library and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory remained closed, Mbugua said.
“When we make these decisions, the safety of members of the University community is the number one priority, so the determination was made based on the weather forecast, conditions on campus and in the surrounding areas,” Mbugua said.
Shortly after 5 a.m., administrators representing a number of offices and departments convened in person and via conference call to make the decision, Mbugua said. The discussion included representatives from the Department of Public Safety, Grounds and Building Maintenance and Dining Services.
The campus reopened at 5 p.m. Administrators announced the reopening in a 1 p.m. web update after considering the same factors that led to the closure, as well as the need to resume normal activities as soon as possible, Mbugua said.
Employees scheduled to work after 5 p.m. were expected to work as usual, Mbugua said.
Effect on students
Due to the inclement conditions, U.S. airlines canceled over 2,300 flights on Thursday and 1,500 flights early Friday, The New York Daily News reported.John F. Kennedy Airport, frequently used by University students, was closed on Friday morning until 10:30 a.m. More than 350 flights were canceled at Newark Liberty International Airport.
One student whose travel plans were changed by the storm was Steven Tsai ’17. Expecting issues due to the forecast, he woke up early to check the status of his 8 a.m. flight from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to Newark Airport. After seeing the cancellation, he called American Airlines and rebooked his flight for Sunday, a time that he noted would also serve him better in terms of his dining plans.
“I didn't realize until yesterday that the dining halls don't open until Sunday night, and I would have been without food for two days,” Tsai said.
Returning to campus two days later than planned will not significantly interfere with Tsai’s studies, he said. “Any work I can do on campus I can do here at home,” he said.
On campus, the atmosphere Friday was quieter than during the rest of recess because people had fewer places to go, Sam Lite ’14, a Wilson College residential college adviser said.
The weather minimally affected Lite's schedule, he said. As most of the facilities he had planned to use already had limited hours, and everything reopened at 5 p.m., he just postponed his activities, which included a trip to Dillon Gymnasium.
However, because of the winter storm, Lite and the other Wilson RCAs decided to provide pizza for members of Wilson and “associated folks” Friday night. “We figured that people would otherwise be much more hard-pressed to find food,” he explained.
No changes to the academic calendar will take place because of the closure, Mbugua said. Dean’s Date will not be postponed.