Missouri Western made questionable calls while handling two severe snow storms that occurred on Thursday, Feb. 21 and Tuesday, Feb. 26.
Due to Thursday’s storm, nearly every university in the Midwest region was closed on Friday except for Western including Northwest Missouri State University, Highland Community College as well as the St. Joseph school district. Throughout Monday, Feb. 25, another storm was predicted to hit the area from mid-afternoon Monday to Tuesday morning. According to channel 9 news, there were 302 KC Metro area closings of businesses and schools on Tuesday morning. However, Western held classes until 11 a.m. and then decided to close campus.
“It’s always a judgment call and sometimes we hit it real good; sometimes not so good,” Director of Facilities Lonnie Johnson said. “Hindsight tells us we might have been better to shut it down because our men were out in this all day. They just kept going over and over and over the same places trying to keep it cleaned off and its wearing them down to nothing.”
Johnson makes the final suggestion to administration on whether to cancel classes. He explained that his usual parameters are to call the storm center for traffic updates, as well as contact the city street removal and the state police for road conditions. Johnson must make his final decision at the cut off time at 5:45 a.m.
“There’s a lot of factors and one of the big factors is what we decided we can do with our limited staff and our limited equipment,” Johnson said. “We’re fighting nature here and sometimes we can get on top of it and stay ahead of it and do pretty good but sometimes it overwhelms us and we just have to stop and say ‘okay, get everybody out of here so we can get this place cleaned up.”
Assistant Director of Public Relations and Marketing Kent Heir manages Western’s school closing announcements on Western’s home page and Facebook. Heir noted that if campus stays open, students have the ability to use their own judgment of whether they can make it to and from campus safely.
“Its not an exact science,” Heir said about campus closing decisions. “Our folks, our administration, tries to make to best decision they can with the information that they have at the time and we hope we get it right more often than we get it wrong, but the bottom line is that our students are adults as well and they have some responsibility to make decisions in their best interest.”
Though Tuesday’s storm caused many concerns, Thursday’s storm and the campus decision to reopen on Friday (Feb. 22) was also a concern.
Keven L. Schneider, assistant superintendent of streets and water protection line maintenance, said that Thursday’s storm was extremely severe with several inches of snow. One of the main problems was that there was more snow that came later on Thursday evening around 8:30 p.m.
“You can’t really stop it even if you know what’s going on,” Schneider said about the additional snow. “All you can do is deal with it from a treatment sense. We just reacted to it. (Thursday) everything was looking like it was going to be alright and that snow just kind of kicked everybody in the rear.”
Western’s location is a major factor regarding weather because the campus is located between two emergency routes, Faraon and Mitchell streets. Though emergency routes are always cleaned first, Schneider explained that the routes had to be re-cleaned due to Thursday evenings snowfall. Western is also a commuter campus and many students get to campus from I29. On Friday, I29 was also in bad shape due to a semi that was blocking the highway.
“We were contacted by the highway patrol that there was an accident,” Marsha Johnson, MoDot Northwest Distrct customer service representative said. “They asked us for traffic control. We have message boards along the interstate and because the semi was initially blocking both south bound lanes. We wanted to alert motors so that they could get off and get back to their destination as quickly as possible.”
On Friday, the north entrance onto campus from Faraon Street was closed around 9:30 a.m. and lasted for about an hour. Students were forced to drive to Mitchell to access the south entrance. Johnson noted that closing that entrance was just another measure to ensure safety. At 9:44 a.m. Friday morning, Missouri Department of Transportation’s interactive highway map indicated that all the highways in northwest Missouri were covered with snow.
As more storms continue to hit this region, students are advised to be responsible and make decisions in their best interest regardless of whether campus is open or not. For weather updates visit griffonnews.com.