St. Thomas officials did not cancel classes Friday after about 10 inches of fresh snow piled up overnight, saying they believed roads would be safe in the morning.
Doug Hennes, vice president of university and government relations, said the decision was made based on safety.
“Looking at the weather forecasts, we knew that the snow was supposed to stop falling after midnight and road crews would be out plowing overnight. The sense, again, was that the majority of people would be able to get to and from campus safely this morning,” Hennes said.
The Minnesota State Patrol was still advising no travel midway through the afternoon on Friday. From 2 p.m. Thursday to about 3 p.m. Friday, state troopers reported 404 crashes, 32 individual injuries, one fatality and 1,326 vehicles off road/vehicle spinouts.
The City of St. Paul declared its eighth snow emergency of the winter on Thursday and announced that high amounts of snow would extend the snow emergency into the evening hours.
The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for “blowing snow” until 3 p.m., Friday. The Minnesota Department of Transportation gave Friday’s commute a “hazardous” rating.
Hennes said only about one-fourth of students live more than a mile away from campus, and the rest are within walking distance.
“When you look at students, almost half of them live on campus. Another fourth of them within a mile; they can walk,” Hennes said.
Although some students braved the commute to campus, the wind and snow made for a tough trek.
“I work two on-campus jobs over at T’s and over at Catholic Studies. I live over on Cleveland and Marshall (Avenues), so I just walked to work; however, when I got here at 6 a.m. this morning, that was one stiff wind,” junior Charles Corbett said.
Junior Danielle DeRose, an on-campus resident, said she didn’t mind her walk to the student center.
“Honestly it’s pretty, but I don’t have to go anywhere, so it’s just nice to look at it. I don’t really mind it,” DeRose said.
Several professors canceled their classes for Friday because of poor driving conditions. Sociology professor Susan Smith-Cunnien said her car got stuck twice this morning and she was unable to make it to work.
“When I got back indoors, I expected to see the notice that (St. Thomas) was closed. When it wasn’t, I decided I’d have to cancel classes myself since it was impossible for me to get in,” Smith-Cunnien said. “I’ve never had to do that before.”
Smith-Cunnien said it’s tough call to shut down the university.
“I’m sure they look at conditions all over the metro area in making that decision. So in my little corner of St. Paul, I couldn’t (get) out, but maybe it was better elsewhere,” Smith-Cunnien said. “I wouldn’t want to second guess the decision.”
Evening plans seem to be up in the air for many students, due to the snow.
“I’m supposed to referee tonight, so as long as the snow doesn’t cancel tonight’s games, like it canceled last night’s games, then all of my stuff should be normal,” Corbett said.
Some students plan on staying indoors for the day.
“I’m just going to do pretty much nothing today. Maybe watch “Lawrence of Arabia” or something,” junior Scott Windey said. “I hate snow—it’s the worst. The cold is OK though.”
Hennes said prospective student overnight visits happening this weekend had no bearing in the decision to keep classes going.
“We want to stay open if at all possible,” Hennes said.