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Isabel blows through!

In baseball, they call it a brushback.  


Hurricane Isabel's impact on Duke was palpable but limited Thursday, as the storm led to class cancellations and the implementation of the Severe Weather Policy but caused only minor damage and no loss of utility service at the University.  


Several trees were reported down across campus and twigs and debris covered the ground late Thursday evening, said Lt. Tom Gustafson of Duke Police Department, but traffic delays were minimal and DPD received no reports of damage to buildings.  


"It's a lot easier than it was when [Hurricane] Fran came through," Gustafson said.  


Non-essential employees went home at 3 p.m. as the Severe Weather Policy went into effect at the order of Executive Vice President Tallman Trask. Per the policy, essential employees like food service workers, bus drivers and some medical personnel remained at work or reported to work.  


After meeting with Trask, Birkhead, Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta, Senior Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations John Burness and other leaders from across the University and Health System, Provost Peter Lange decided at 2 p.m. to cancel all classes that started at 3 p.m. or later because of reports detailing obstacles on local roads and bad weather through the afternoon.  


"It was a matter of judgment based on the wind and predictions of wind for the later part of the afternoon, the amount of water that had already rained and my concern that we not possibly put people in danger by putting them on the road when there was a lot of wind and a lot of debris already on the road," Lange said.  


The University was originally set to cancel classes that began later than 6 p.m., but Lange said last-minute reports compelled him to move the cancellation time forward. Because of the technical challenge of informing the community of canceled classes and the 11th-hour decision, many were on short notice about the cancellation.  


Officials at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill made a decision to cancel classes earlier than did their Duke counterparts, which Lange suggested may have partially resulted from the fact that UNC has a greater proportion of students who must travel to class from their off-campus residence halls.  


Burness agreed. "Duke does not cancel classes lightly; that's just historically true, and we have many more people who live on campus as a percentage than they do," he said, adding that sometimes public schools like UNC are bound by dictates from state government officials.  


The long-run difficulty of canceling some, but not all, classes in a given day is finding a way to make up the course work. Lange said he had not considered what to do on this issue, but said it was possible he would ask professors to make up their work on a course-by-course basis.  


Numerous campus meetings were canceled late Thursday afternoon, including the Fuqua School of Business Alumni Council meeting, which was rescheduled for Oct. 10; a special joint session of the Arts and Sciences Council and Engineering Faculty Council (see story, page one) and numerous departmental and club meetings.  


It is unknown whether the University will be asked by Durham city or county to help with cleanup or other post-hurricane efforts, as it did during a Dec. 2002 ice storm when it ran a shelter and worked closely with both the city and county. "We haven't been asked for anything yet. You wait and see," Burness said. "We try to be as supportive as we can."  



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