Emergency Management expects warm winter, wants students to stay safe

October 25, 2016

Rachel Librach

[email protected]

     Colorado weather can be unpredictable. This winter, students do not have to feel unprepared for the rapid changes that go along with winter in the centennial state.

     Last year, the U.S. experienced colder than average temperatures due to El Nino, a weather pattern that caused a shift in the jet streams across the Pacific Ocean, which created warmer water temperatures.

     This warmer water temperature caused an increase in moisture and snow last year across the U.S., which resulted in lower-than-normal temperatures.

     Unlike El Nino, La Nina will affect North America’s atmosphere by driving cooler jet streams across the pacific this year, according to Tim Stoecklein, program director of Emergency Management. La Nina will create temperatures that are warmer than average.

     “We are kind of looking at an average winter if you will,” said Stoecklein.

     October through March are predicted to be above normal for temperatures, according to the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Association. The NOAA Seasonal Outlook forecasts an average amount of precipitation going into this winter season.

     But Stoecklein doesn’t rule out harsh snow storms.

     “Now, does that mean we’re not going to get a storm that dumps a foot of snow? No. It just means that the pattern is actually shifting so that the Pacific Northwest is probably going to be wetter than usual throughout the winter,” said Stoecklein, who has been a Colorado resident since 2007.

     Students should make safety a priority in the case of a heavy snow storm, according to Stoecklein and Marc Pino, interim Chief of Police.

     Students should keep emergency kits in their vehicles in case their cars break down or they need to change a tire.

     A few items that should be kept in student’s cars include windshield scrapers, jumper cables, blankets, food, a first aid kit and winter clothes such as coats, glove and beanies, said Pino.

     Car maintenance is also important to keep in mind. Pino advises that students keep their gas tanks filled to at least one eighth of a tank, otherwise the condensation builds and the tank can freeze, making the vehicle inoperable.

     Wiper fluid and good tires also aid in safety.

     The most important consideration for students is to recognize their limits and make the ultimate decision for themselves on whether or not they feel confident driving to campus, said Stoecklein.

     Stoecklein also thinks it’s important for students to know before they go, meaning that they should research weather forecasts before going out and always plan for enough time to drive in the winter conditions.

     Campus closures involve many people on campus, according to Stoecklein.

     Pino said he calls Susan Szpyrka, vice chancellor of Administration and Finance, at 5 a.m. if conditions are thought to be hazardous. The goal is to keep the school open or shut it down for student’s safety by about 6 a.m.

     Pino and the Emergency Management department receive updates from District 11 and 20, and from the cities of Monument, Pueblo, Woodland Park and Denver. Local police will report road conditions to Pino as well.

     “Police officers will report to me if Austin Bluffs is drivable with a 2-wheel drive vehicle. If the shuttle busses cannot efficiently run or Nevada is closed down, because the roads are bad, then the decision to shut down campus will have to be made,” said Pino.

     The campus can also delay opening if a storm rolls in overnight, but the forecast says that conditions might clear up by the afternoon.

     For these cases, Emergency Management has three time frames for deciding whether to close campus, delay it or keep it open: 6 a.m. for morning class, 10 a.m. for afternoon class and 2 p.m. for evening class.

     Stoecklein said these times attempt to give all students the equal chance to have fair warning before their classes start.

     Faculty and staff who make individual decisions not to hold class on any given day will usually send out an email or post an announcement on Blackboard to alert students. Pino and Stoecklein suggest students monitor Blackboard and their student emails.

     To learn about campus closures and receive weather alerts, visit UCCSAlerts at alerts. uccs.edu and click on “Alert Sign Up” for instructions.