On Friday, ice descended on campus, frosting roads and sidewalks and disrupting business as usual.
A sign was posted on a door in the Flowers building warning students that the wooden deck of the Bryan Center Plaza was slippery due to ice. Yet, despite proceeding with caution, many students fell as could be seen on the Duke PlazaCam. By Sunday morning, sand—which had been put down around campus to give pedestrians more traction on the slippery sidewalks—had been tracked into every building. The buses were shut down late Friday night through Saturday morning, due to poor road conditions. No traffic accidents occurred on campus during the storm, Emergency Coordinator Kyle Cavanaugh said.
Numerous events were canceled: The Nasher Museum of Art event celebrating the 50th anniversary of racial integration at Duke was postponed to a yet-to-be determined date; Sweet Night in Durham, an “unlimited dessert” fundraiser for the Duke Cancer Institute, was moved to Sunday night; and the night’s showing of Hoof ‘n’ Horn’s Cabaret in Sheafer Theater was completely called off.
The weather also disrupted student plans as some social events were canceled, and the ice made driving difficult.
“I’m kind of a local—I’m from Charlotte—so I haven’t thought much about it since this [type of weather] is pretty typical, ” junior Caroline Seng said.
But Seng noted that her parents were planning to visit her over the weekend and had to delay their plans for a day due to the icy conditions.
But the University had been bracing itself for the winter weather since Wednesday of that week.
“We are constantly monitoring the weather, and we have direct access to the National Weather Service,” said Kyle Cavanaugh, Duke’s emergency coordinator.
Duke has an Emergency Management Severe Weather Operations team, he said. The team has around 40 members and draws its membership from different groups, including the Duke University Health System, Duke University Police Departmetn, Parking and Transportation, Student Affairs and Facilities Management. Starting Thursday night, they began “pre-treating” the roads with a product that helps prevent snow or ice from sticking to the ground.
Later Friday night, the Emergency Weather Operations team instituted the severe weather policy in response to beginning of the storm. Under the policy, services essential to campus residents or hospital patients are maintained, but other employees are permitted to leave.
The University’s attempts to mitigate ice-related issues were inadequate on Central Campus, said sophomore Kelly Daus.
“Basically, they didn’t sand Central at all,” Daus said. “Our parking lot was literally an ice sheet, and our stairwell doesn’t get any sun so it was iced over all weekend long.”
Daus said she fell down the stairs in her Alexander Street apartment complex over the weekend and noted that she hopes administrators would pay more attention to students living on Central Campus.
Senior Alex Ong, who lives off campus, said she had problems commuting over the weekend because of the ice, although she said she is not sure what the University could have done to help in her situation.
Although Duke’s campus was one of the concern of the group, the Emergency Weather Operations team also deals with DUHS’s responses to weather conditions. One of the primary concerns was whether the hospitals and clinics could be staffed, Cavanaugh noted.
The storm was costly for Duke as well—although Cavanaugh could not give an exact total expense, he cited many costs: pre-treating roads, laying down sand, employing contract help and paying overtime for staff working due to the severe weather policy being in effect.
“We’re fortunate in North Carolina that we don’t have many of these storms,” he said.