by Lauren Farrar–
Virginia Tech closed the campus Monday, March 12 due to snow. The university must follow an internal process before canceling classes during situations of inclement weather.
“We look at the current weather forecast, the National Weather Service, the condition of major roadways in the region, the condition of primary roads on campus, the condition of sidewalks and parking lots on campus and around facilities that Virginia Tech uses in Blacksburg that may not be owned by the university but that we use for classes, and the operational status of public transportation such as the Blacksburg Transit,” said Kayla Smith, special assistant to Vice President for Operations Sherwood Wilson.
While March 12 was the first day of the year the university called for a snow day, Blacksburg has seen snow since early December. According to Virginia Tech’s Policy on Authorized Closings, Wilson is responsible for closing all university operations on the Blacksburg campus.
The Blacksburg Transit makes its own operational decisions during inclement weather, but it also considers the university’s decision on whether or not to close the campus.
“(The decision’s) going to completely depend on road conditions, and is it safe for us to operate,” said Fiona Rhodes, communications and customer support specialist for the Blacksburg Transit.
The Transit remained on its normal full-service schedule during the March 12 snow day, even though Virginia Tech canceled classes.
“Our staff is making the decisions for ourselves, and then Virginia Tech is making the decision themselves, and we come back together,” Rhodes said. “So that’s why you saw us continue to operate, and Virginia Tech had a different decision.”
The Virginia Tech Police Shift Commander assists with the process by initiating internal procedures. The Virginia Tech Police Department is also responsible for sending out VT Alerts, which is the university’s emergency notification system during inclement weather.
“Weather advisory: Blacksburg campuses now closed today. All classes and activities canceled,” reads the VT Alert notifying students of the campus’ closure on March 12.
“If it is a potential snow day, (the Virginia Tech Police) are responsible for contacting (Wilson) by a specific time in the morning so that we can start that decision process, and if it’s during the day, then they are supposed to contact him when they receive word that conditions are deteriorating in a way that would potentially affect safety,” Smith said.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Virginia’s average amount of precipitation in February 2018 was 4.27 inches, an increase from February 2017’s average of 0.86 inches. Snow remains on the March forecast in Blacksburg.