Many factors weighed in storm closures

Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s staff closely monitor the forecast in preparation for a potential snow day.

Students at universities in Halifax might be in for a snow day on Wednesday. (Photo Clare Shrybman)

Heavy snowfall and high winds heading towards Halifax could mean potential closures for the city’s universities on Wednesday.

Students at Saint Mary’s, Dalhousie and Mount Saint Vincent University might be in for a snow day if the weather worsens overnight as is forecasted by Environment Canada.

Mike McCann, manager of maintenance and operations at Saint Mary’s University says there is no decision to close as of yet. A storm watch has been put into effect and staff at the university will be closely monitoring the weather overnight.

“A lot goes on at wee hours of the morning to try to determine if we’re going to close, what time we’re going to close, how long, and all that sort of stuff, ” says McCann.

Mike Burns, director of Dalhousie’s security says he sees the potential for a closure at Dalhousie on Wednesday.

“It looks like very similar conditions that we were faced with a couple Fridays ago and we did close at that time,” Burns says.

Dalhousie closed its doors for a day on Jan. 3 due to a snowstorm, at a time when the majority of students weren’t back on campus yet.

“Now we have another 15,000 to 16,000 people coming to campus, you have to take that into [account] as well,” Burns says.

“If the lots are full of snow where do they park? If the buses aren’t running, how do they get here?”

McCann says the decision to close Saint Mary’s University is ultimately made by the president but the process involves many more people.

The closure itself is done to ensure safety of the students, faculty and staff of the university.

Burns says a variety of factors are taken into consideration before the decision to close Dalhousie is made. Roadway conditions, the status of Metro Transit, and walking conditions on campus are some of the factors examined.

“It’s a couple safety concerns. One is commuting safety and the other is general safety just being on campus,” Burns says.

In the event of a snowstorm, staff at Dalhousie also consult with Saint Mary’s, NSCAD and MSVU to see if other universities are planning to close.

The final call is usually made around 5 a.m. by the vice-president of finance and administration, but the university can also close mid-day.  Noon and 4 p.m. are critical times for making a closure, says Burns.

At around 5:30 a.m. Burns will notify his contact in marketing to inform them if the university plans to close and they will begin the process of updating the university’s website, sending a Dal Alert text message and contacting the local media to inform them.