The Hurricane that Never Came

On the evening of October 29, students moved their cars and retreated into their rooms, expecting the worst from Hurri-cane Sandy. The storm was projected to hit Hamilton between that night and Tuesday, October 30. Confused, but not disappoint-ed, Hamilton awoke Tuesday morning to nothing more than a light drizzle.

Associate Vice President and Dean of the College Scott Brown, who is charged with leading the emergency management team, was on the front lines of the university’s decision to cancel classes.

“We did a conference call with the emer-gency management team on Sunday, then we met at 3 o’clock on Monday,” Dean Brown said. “Based on multiple weather data sources that we were monitoring, the storm was gaining speed. Also, pretty much every other institution and school in the area had closed or announced they were closing already. And the county below us, where a lot of our staff live, had already declared a state of emergency.”

Students, faculty and staff were notified of the decision through a Campus Alerts e-mail, which detailed the expected impact of the storm; but between Monday night and Tuesday morning, Sandy’s trajectory had taken a 180 degree turn.

“[The storm] almost went all the way around us and looped back up,” Dean Brown said.

Though wording of the school-wide email suggested that Colgate would be “closed” for the day, Dean Brown clarified that in fact, as long as students are living on campus, a num-ber of staff members have to come to work during extreme weather conditions to ensure the smooth functioning of essential facilities. Essential staff is determined based on Col-gate’s Emergency Closing Policy, under the stipulation “Closed with Essential Personnel Reporting.” They number well over 50 indi-viduals, including many members of Campus Safety, the Dean of the College division and the maintenance staff.

One of the most significant campus concerns with respect to Sandy was the effect of a total loss of power. In particular, this would cause mass-stored food in the dining halls to spoil, and certain ongoing scientific experiments and lab materials to become potentially hazardous.

“Some but not all buildings have back-up generators, with priority on buildings that would provide food and shelter,” Dean Brown said.

The emergency management team expected flooding in facilities lower on the hill.

“In the past the College Street apart-ment complexes have been subject to various stages of flooding,” Dean Brown said. “In anticipation, we had students move their vehicles out the parking lots and B&G and Residential Life made plans to extract water and evacuate basement apartment residents if the need arose.”

Although Hamilton ended up enjoying moderately tame weather, the greater Colgate community has taken a significant hit.

“Hurricane Sandy’s impact was felt all along the east coast, where the greatest concentration of Colgate alumni reside,” Director of Alumni Relations Tim Mans-field said. “Many alumni and parents lost electrical power and personal property. President Herbst delivered a personal message to those affected along the east coast, along with an update on how stu-dents were protected. [Colgate’s] NYC alumni club is actually helping with the cleanup this Saturday.”

Despite Hamilton’s relative isola-tion from the storm, numerous groups on campus have sprung to action to as-sist victims. Colgate has already hosted a benefit concert put on by indie band the Conniption Fits, and a Disaster Response Team Open Forum. The Athletic Depart-ment is taking ongoing donations for its Basic Supply Drive and on Friday No-vember 16, the Center for Outreach, Vol-unteerism and Education will be teaming up with the Chaplains Office, the Disas-ter Response Team (DiRT) and Gamma Theta Upsilon to initiate an Afternoon of Service for the cause.

Contact Rebekah Ward at [email protected].