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Dangerous weather conditions can prompt delays and closures

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By DaMarkus James 

da.james@colostate-pueblo.edu

The process of canceling or delaying classes because of snowy weather might not be as simple as people at CSU-Pueblo may think.

Students, staff and faculty might wonder how dangerously cold weather caused a recent campus closure and a few delays last month. Surprisingly, there is no rules or guidelines for school closures and delays, said Jason Turner, environment health and safety officer of CSU-Pueblo. It is difficult to determine just by snow accumulations, he said.

Photot courtesy of ripakpost.edu.ms.

“It’s very hard to come up with a policy that says when we get three inches of snow, we’re going to cancel school or when we get six inches of snow we’re going to cancel school, because that doesn’t really get to the main issue,” Turner said.

It is also difficult to issue closures or delays because of how dangerous road conditions could become, and also the safety of people walking on campus, he said.

“The main issue is whether or not the roads are safe to drive on, and whether or not it’s safe for students, faculty and staff to be outside,” Turner said. 

High accumulations of snow do not cause a closure or delay because commuting may not become an issue, he said.

“We could get 6 to 7 inches of snow and the roads still be safe, depending on what the weather was like when the snow started falling, and how the city, county and university crews have responded to the weather,” Turner said.

A sudden change in snowy weather might change the status of possible closures or delays and make it challenging to form a policy, he said.

“What I mean by that is if when it starts snowing, it’s warmer out,” Turner said. “The snow’s going to melt, it’s not going to stick and then later in the evening it’s going to hard freeze and that’s going to create a sheet of ice under the snow.”

To research information concerning possible delays or closures, Turner said that he looks at weather forecast updates, watches and warnings from the National Weather Service.

“If there is a watch or warning in effect, we’ll go ahead and keep checking the weather through the day, and I’m talking the day before the closure and the night before the closure,” he said.

He implements decisions to cancel or delay classes the evening before at about 8 p.m., Turner said. Students, who have signed up to receive text messages, will receive one the night before a delay or closure, he said. E-mails are also sent out for students who do not receive notifications from the school.

However, he said that if the weather is not terribly bad then students will not receive any kind of notification.

At times, if the weather is bad he will check the weather forecast the morning before classes start and decides if students and staff should be notified of closures or delays, Turner said.

Cold reporting status is another factor when canceling or delaying classes, Turner said, and the state patrol and the country sheriff and city police departments get involved with cold reporting status. 

“The reason that’s important is when they go on cold reporting, it’s because there are more accidents than they can handle with their available resources,” he said.

 If the state patrol, county sheriffs or city police department do not issue cold reporting then that means they can handle the weather and it may not be too bad to accommodate car accidents, Turner said.