It's usually snow or ice that shutters university operations, but in the early morning hours of Sept. 8, it was a near record-breaking, steady drumbeat of rain that shut down campus for six hours. It is believed to be the first time that rain and its pursuant flooding closed the university.
Due to flooding throughout the city and town of Ithaca, the Tompkins County Sheriff's Office declared countywide road closures at 5 a.m., leading to Cornell's decision to close until 11 a.m. in accordance with Inclement Weather Policy 8.2. Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit bus service was also temporarily suspended during that time. By 9 a.m., the sheriff had opened the roads again, bus service was restarted and classes at Cornell had resumed at 11 a.m.
It was remnants of Hurricane Lee, which had impacted the southeastern United States over the weekend, that brought in the low-pressure system and rainfall, said Keith Eggleston, a climatologist at the Northeast Regional Climate Center, which is part of Cornell's Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
The Game Farm Road weather station recorded 4.75 inches of rain from the early hours of Sept. 7 through the morning of Sept. 8. Normally, according to 30 years worth of climate center data, the entire month of September gets just 3.69 inches of rain, Eggleston said.
The wet weather pattern also is the fifth-highest amount of rain over a two-day period on record at the climate center, which has been monitoring local weather since the 1890s. In July 1935, Ithaca received 8.22 inches of rain in a two-day period.
A more recent notable rainfall took place in October 1981, when a two-day period brought 6.09 inches of rain.
Cornell officials are reminding the campus community to continue to keep their personal safety in mind, particularly since the waters in creeks and gorges are running high and fast. All are urged to stay away from the gorges.