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Hannah Ashby '21, left, and Annabel Grossman '21 enjoy the cool comfort of a hammock set up on North Campus when the university closed.

Ithaca escapes brunt of brutal March 2 coastal storm

The closed doors of Olin Library reflect parts of the snowy Arts Quad on March 2.

Heavy snow and fierce winds were forecast throughout the region late last week, prompting Cornell leaders to close the university March 2, even before any snow had fallen. Students took advantage of the day off to catch up on work and to brush up for prelims, as Ithaca – surrounded by a wintry reality – escaped the storm’s brutality.

In northern and eastern New York, snow totals reached 18 inches to 2 feet, as the storm knocked out power to more than a million people throughout the Northeast, according to news reports.

Ithaca was right on the cusp of either receiving snow or heavy rain. Mark Wysocki, senior lecturer in earth and atmospheric sciences, explained the difference in regional snow amounts: “Elevation. Elevation. Elevation.” Wysocki said temperatures hovered around the freezing mark, creating a meteorologist’s nightmare that was difficult to forecast.

Wysocki said the decision to close campus was made because the morning commute for staff would force driving in a heavy part of the storm, and the forecast called for bad conditions in the afternoon, as well. Those afternoon conditions did not materialize.

Higher elevations received more snow. Storm totals reached about 11 inches in Trumansburg, Wyoming County had 18 inches, and Allegheny County saw 15.8 inches. Keith Eggleston, senior climatologist at Cornell’s Northeast Regional Climate Center, said Cornell’s Game Farm Road weather station got 5.1 inches of snow, Groton had 3.1 inches, Freeville had 3.6 inches, and Ellis Hollow Road’s station had 7 inches.

Most of the central campus eateries staff – essential to keep the university running – were shifted to residential dining halls for the day, according to Karen Brown, director of campus life marketing and communications. Other crucial staff worked to take care of animals, greenhouse plants and other critical research projects.

The campus was quiet Friday, as all libraries were closed. Students at Robert Purcell Community Center found quiet corners in which to concentrate. Cameron Dunbar ’21, an ILR pre-law major, spent the snowy day studying for her macroeconomics and organizational behavior prelims.

Hayley Nilles ’21, a chemical engineering major, prepared for organic chemistry and materials lab prelims, while Shemar Christian ’21, a mechanical engineering major, studied most of the day for his computer science and calculus tests, so he could “save time in the evening for relaxing.”

Cameron Dunbar prepares for her prelims at the Robert Purcell Community Center.

No stranger to snowstorms, Tristan Wiese ’21, an animal science major from Anchorage, Alaska, has been in blizzards where it snowed 2 feet overnight with winds approaching 100 miles per hour. “It was gnarly compared to this,” he said.

Comparatively speaking, Friday’s storm was mild, as Wiese recalled how he helped to rescue friends a few years ago in high school, their vehicle overwhelmed by an avalanche. The vehicle was thrown off the road, but Wiese and friends were able to safely winch the car back onto the road.

Nikki Juszczak ’21, a human development major, concurred with Allison Herstic ’21, ILR, who provided an unbiased opinion on the unscheduled day off: “I’m very pro snow days. I’m an advocate for snow days.”

While more snow is in the Ithaca forecast from March 7 through March 10, high temperatures are expected to be slightly above freezing during the daylight hours and just below freezing at night.

Media Contact

Lindsey Knewstub