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Some classes revert to Zoom after severe weather strikes NJ

A path leads into a huge puddle, with trees on both sides.
The towpath after a hard rain.
Justin Cai / The Daily Princetonian

After Princeton experienced severe weather on the evening of Sept. 1, widespread flooding and downed trees caused several classes to return to a virtual format on Thursday — after just one day of in-person classes.

CHM 371: Experimental Chemistry was one such course. Set to take place in person on Thursday at 10 a.m. in Frick Chemistry Laboratory, the class was moved to a Zoom format after instructor Chia-Ying Wang emailed students saying that road closures prevented her and co-instructor Michael T. Kelly GS ’97 from reaching campus.


Several main routes into campus were closed due to the dangerous flooding, including Alexander Street and Washington Road, and did not reopen until Thursday afternoon.

“Princeton is basically an island,” Chemistry concentrator Chirag Kumar ’23 remembered an instructor telling the class on Zoom. “On all sides, water surrounds it and has just completely flooded it.”

“It was ironic,” Kumar continued. “We had been looking forward to in-person classes for so long, and it honestly felt like some sort of wicked joke the universe was playing on us.”

Kumar said the class meeting was “a typical Zoom class,” with many cameras off and everyone muted. There were some brief technical difficulties as well — when an instructor screen-shared, “all we saw were black and white stripes.”


Bharvi Chavre ’23, also a Chemistry concentrator in CHM 371, said that the abrupt switch back to Zoom caused other unexpected problems.

“It was really weird transitioning from a Zoom class to an in-person class,” Chavre said, “as the professor ran late and I had to run with my laptop to the next class.”

Chavre is an associate news editor for the ‘Prince.’

Tobi Fadugba ’23 attended PHY 101: Introductory Physics I on Zoom on Thursday afternoon and also cited negative impacts of the temporary switch back to digital learning.

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“It kinda takes away from the seriousness as a class,” he wrote to the ‘Prince.’

On Wednesday evening, students on campus received multiple tornado warning notifications, including calls for all to remain indoors and shelter in basements. According to preliminary reports, a tornado touched down somewhere in the town of Princeton on Wednesday, ​​with maximum wind speeds estimated at 75 mph.

Later in the night, students received flash flood emergency notifications. Governor Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency on Wednesday at 10 p.m., calling on residents to “[s]tay off the roads, stay home, and stay safe.”

Severe flooding from the storm caused 23 fatalities in New Jersey, most of which were in the northern half of the state. As many as 93,000 customers were without power at the height of the storm, according to a tweet from Murphy.

A precept of SPI 370: Ethics and Public Policy also returned to Zoom due to the storm. Claire Silberman ’23, a concentrator in the School of Public and International Affairs and recent gap year student, told the ‘Prince’ that she went to precept in person because she “didn’t get the Canvas memo.”

Silberman is head news editor emerita at the ‘Prince.’

“I was in person but nobody else was,” Silberman said. “The last time I’ve been on a Zoom class was in the spring of 2020, so it kind of gave me flashbacks. But as far as first week road bumps go, it wasn’t that bad.”