Snowstorm leads to two-day campus closure

Feb. 8, 2016

Jonathan Toman
jtoman@uccs.edu

The Upper Plaza sits snow covered after two snow days in a row.  Rachael Deegan | The Scribe
The Upper Plaza sits snow covered after two snow days in a row.
Rachael Deegan | The Scribe
Since 2008, UCCS has been delayed, closed early, or been closed completely 16 times, according to Public Safety.

The two-day closure of UCCS Feb. 1-2 was two of those times, and it was only the third and fourth time that the university closed completely since the start of fall semester 2014, according to Tim Stoecklein, program director of Emergency Management .

UCCS reopened for class on Feb. 3, despite many neighborhoods still having issues with snow. Current conditions shape the decision to return to normal campus operations.

“We know that the main roads were in really pretty good shape (on Wednesday),” Stoecklein said. “We also know that the neighborhoods, the city streets crews were just getting into the neighborhoods.”

“So we knew that was going to be a challenge, but there was also a lot of traffic out and about on Tuesday when we were canceled.”

On both canceled days, the decision to close was made the night before, something “rare for us, typically that decision is not made until early morning,” Stoecklein said.

The deadline to make a decision is 6 a.m.

The ability to close the night before was due to the snowfall rate of this storm.

“Once you get over an inch or two per hour, it’s really difficult region wide for street crews and road crews and even our campus folks to stay ahead of it and keep roadways open,” Stoecklein said.

A closure or delay decision often hinges on if the shuttles run effectively, Stoecklein said. The snowfall rate of a storm such as the one Feb. 1-2 can pose a problem for UCCS specifically, due to its location on a hill.

“You would have to have dedicated plows just between Union and Nevada to really keep us wide open in terms of roadways,” Stoecklein said.

In looking at closing or delaying, the university takes into account roads and conditions across town, as well as whether high schools are closed (due to faculty, staff and students who may have children).

“We understand that conditions are extremely variable across the region and across the city,” Stoecklein said.

Stoecklein said key campus players are notified in advance of a big snowstorm – facilities services, dining and food services, transportation, housing and public safety – to give them a heads up to reschedule events if needed as well as address potential problems due to snow and cold.

“In this case, with the significance of this recent storm, it was also participating in conference calls with the National Weather Service Pueblo office, who we fall under,” Stoecklein said.

In addition to working with the NWS, UCCS conducted coordination calls with the Colorado Springs emergency management group, which includes entities such as law enforcement, the streets division and utilities.

UCCS Alerts is the main form of communication to alert students about closures or other campus emergencies. Visit alerts.uccs.edu to find out current information.