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Blizzards and Breaks

When blizzards and breaks hit Concordia at the same time, safety is the top concern. Twice this year large storms hit Fargo-Moorhead as students and some faculty prepared to take to the roads—while leaving for Thanksgiving and returning for spring semester.
The decision to cancel classes is a multi-step process involving several people, and safety is the primary factor.

Michael Smith, music professor and conductor of Concordia’s Chapel Choir,
Männerchor, and Cantabile, lives in Brainerd. Though he stays in the Moorhead area during the week, he drives home each weekend. He normally returns Monday mornings before classes, but he drove back on Sunday before second semester because of the weather, he said.

“I had to be here for that [10:30] class,” he said. “[But] if I would have known the road conditions as they were, I would have stayed home.”

Driving conditions were slow and icy, or “white-knuckle driving” according to Smith, but most students made it back on Sunday.

The decision to hold classes on Monday was largely due to the fact that the storm had passed and the roads were open.

“Post-Christmas [the question] was… can students make it on the roads back here?” Mark Krejci, provost and dean of the college, said.

Krejci called the regional highway patrol dispatch centers, monitored road closures and openings, and was in contact with the National Weather Service throughout the week.

“Going into the storm, [we alerted] our people that this storm event could run into Monday,” Krejci said. “Then as the storm unfolded, it was very clear… that [I-29 and I-94] were going to open pretty quickly on Sunday morning.”

The decision to hold classes the first Monday of second semester was the product of just under a week of discussion, but normally the decision to cancel classes or not begins being made around 5 a.m. the morning of the classes in question.

If a storm hits during a normal school week, a Public Safety officer contacts the Moorhead Police Department and the Sheriff’s office at 5 a.m., according to Concordia’s “Winter Storm Policy” in the student handbook.

Around 5:45 a.m., Bill MacDonald, the director of Public Safety, contacts Krejci with the information and recommendations. If Krejci finds cancelling classes or closing campus appropriate, President Dovre then confirms that decision by 6:15 a.m., and the Office of Communications and Marketing takes it from there to alert the campus.

Even when classes are not cancelled, students are encouraged to use their best judgment, Krejci said. Professors are generally understanding of weather-related absences, especially near breaks in the academic year.

Senior Patty Kramer planned to drive back the last Wednesday before second semester, but the roads kept her in the Twin Cities until Sunday.

“There were cars all over the place [on the drive back] in the ditch,” she said. “It was really messy.”

Portions of the drive were congested due to the number of cars in the ditch, and the slow speeds lengthened the drive, she said. Although the drive was difficult, Kramer made it back to campus safely.

“I think [cancelling classes] would’ve helped… kids coming from farther away,” Kramer said. “But I don’t think the college did a disservice.”

The main difference between the Thanksgiving and New Year’s storms was timing, Krejci said. After contacting a meteorologist and examining possible projections of the Thanksgiving storm, he confirmed that it was supposed to hit Wednesday night and into Thursday. By cancelling classes on Wednesday, people could leave campus Tuesday after classes ended.

“The idea there was ‘let’s not have our students driving in a blizzard,’” Krejci said.

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