This weekend, the University of Connecticut experienced its first blizzard of the semester, Winter Storm Jonas. Mansfield, Conn. received a total of 7.8 inches of snowfall, according to MassLive.com, fortunately missing the main path of the storm. Jonas left at least 48 dead in the Washington, D.C. area, where snowfall surpassed 30 inches according to The Weather Channel. Just a bit farther south, New York City was hit with 26.8 inches.
While the snow landed on the weekend and thus did not affect the university during class operations, Winter Storm Jonas was an important trial run for the university and students, foreshadowing more inclement weather to come in the upcoming weeks. The university should be commended for the quick response to the snow, and fairly effective snow-clearing measures. Though warmer temperatures have come to Storrs in recent days, melting much of the snow accumulation from Winter Storm Jonas, University efforts, both before and after the storm arrived, provided for relatively clear walkways and roads on campus.
Nonetheless, Jonas should serve as both a reminder and warning of the importance of snow-readiness policies and procedures and that there is always room for improvement. This includes more direct communication between the administration and students about recommendations and safety tips during the storm and increased attention to icy problem areas around campus especially where there is a lot of foot traffic such as dorms and classroom buildings.
The level of snowfall last year, which broke records in many areas, will hopefully go unmatched this winter. However, the administration has proven that last year provided a hard-earned lesson. Students, faculty and staff should not be expected to traverse dangerous conditions, which would be avoidable with more adequate preparation. The Dean of Students’ decision to cancel classes and activities, as well as send home all non-essential employees as Winter Storm Jonas hit proved to be a sound precautionary measure, and one which reduced needless hazards to students, faculty and staff.
In addition to the responsibility of the administration, students themselves must remember to think ahead and stay safe during storms. This includes stocking up on proper food and personal items and avoiding driving in the snow unless in cases of absolute necessity. This is both for individual student safety, and those around them. Best practices and preparations will require the responsibility and willingness of both the university and students. So long as the university continues to operate at this high level of preparedness, this winter should prove far less problematic than that of last year.