All University classes were canceled on Wednesday due to a winter storm that drove New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to declare a state of emergency on Tuesday evening.
Non-essential University personnel were also ordered not to report to work. The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, campus libraries and Dillon Gymnasium were also closed, according to an Office of Communications statement at 8:30 a.m.
The dining halls, eating clubs and Frist Campus Center remained opened Wednesday, and Tiger Transit buses operated “on a limited basis,” according to the statement.
However, the Stanworth Apartments and the Boathouse, which are supplied power by public utilities and not the University’s cogeneration facility, experienced blackouts, said University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua. Other locations experienced an intermittent power supply due to some limited University reliance on public utilities.
However, all “central areas” were fully powered, Mbugua said.
The announcement canceling classes altogether came after an earlier announcement from Donald Reichling of Public Safety alerting all undergraduates to a delay of opening of offices and classes until 11 a.m. on Wednesday. The announcement canceling classes for the whole day came approximately three hours later. The first alert, which included a text message and an email, was sent at approximately 5:50 a.m. and the second was sent at approximately 8:30 a.m.
Around 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday, the University sent a third text message and an email to students canceling evening classes and postponing the resumption of normal operations until 8:45 a.m. on Thursday. The University had originally expected normal operations to resume at 5:00 p.m.
Automated telephone calls supplemented the text messages and e-mails throughout the day.
“The safety of the members of the University community” was the most important factor in canceling classes, Mbugua explained. He added that the safety of faculty and staff members who use the roads to commute to work was a specific concern.
Mbugua stated that walking and driving conditions were affected by falling tree limbs and branches.
“They were cleared,” Mbugua said. “There were no injuries reported.”
The University last canceled classes on Feb. 10, 2010, almost four years ago, also due to a snow storm.
Blake Feldman ’17 said he had not been affected in a significant way by the closures and the weather conditions beyond classes being canceled.
“[I have] more free time,” Feldman said. “I’ll probably sleep a little more tonight.”
Sidewalks were covered in ice and slush in the early afternoon, although sidewalks in some areas, like Wilson College, were cleared later on in the day.
Some, like Patrick Harrel ’16, had to confront the falling branches about which Mbugua had warned.
“I was walking toward Witherspoon Hall, and I started hearing this rustling in the tree — there’s a big tree next to the staircase there, it goes up to the little courtyard towards Witherspoon, and the branch just came down, exploded, with ice flying everywhere,” Harrel said. “They came down about ten to fifteen feet in front of me. They were probably about ten to fifteen feet long. There were four or five hefty branches that were there.”
“It would have been dangerous if someone had been under those branches when they fell,” Harrel added.
Tom Byrne ’76, managing director of Byrne Asset Management on Nassau Street, stated that two out of the three exits from his neighborhood had been blocked by fallen trees and that his home had lost power as a result of the weather conditions. Power to his office had also been intermittent, affecting his computers, he said.