Severe weather leaves students stranded at home

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Severe weather impacted Webster’s St. Louis campus over the week — but classes went on as scheduled, virtually. 

This past week, St. Louis received a snowstorm the likes of which many Webster students have never seen. The National Weather Service issued a “Winter Weather Advisory” on Monday, warning of dangerous road conditions and deadly temperatures, and recommending limiting outdoor exposure to less than 30 minutes to avoid frostbite.

Frigid conditions of 5 degrees along with accumulations of snow more than 2 inches have not happened in the St. Louis area since 1912, tweeted the National Weather Service. With Webster’s sixth week starting among inclement weather not before seen in our lifetimes, the university chose to move classes online for Monday and Tuesday.

Does this virtually signal the end of the “snow day?” With Zoom being a familiar platform for off-campus learning, students no longer need to physically come to campus for class. Some instructors of in-person classes chose to cancel class altogether.

Senior Nickol Wahby, a biology major, said while her lectures moved to Zoom, her labs were canceled.

“Since people couldn’t get in and you can’t really do [labs] virtually, they all got canceled. I guess a lot of the practical part of my classes was canceled because labs are the only hands-on thing we have now,” Wahby said.

As of Wednesday, Webster is back to normal operations. However, not all roads across St. Louis are in safe driving conditions.

“It would take me over an hour to get out of Fenton, not even counting trying to get to Webster on top of that. We have a lot of hills, and they don’t get plowed a lot. A lot of the time, it’s community members buying salt and salting their own roads and helping people get up hills when they get stuck,” Wahby said. “For me, it’s just not worth risking getting into a car accident.”

Commuter students are not the only ones affected by the icy roads; students who live on campus who go home over the weekend had similar issues.

Freshman Brady Stiff, who lives in West Hall, was staying at his house this weekend when the snowstorm hit and travel from home to campus was impossible.

“The snow came in on Sunday night … so I wasn’t on campus the entire week because I was snowed in,” Stiff said.

Similarly, junior Alexis Williams was at her home in Fenton over the weekend and was unable to return to her dorm in East Hall on Monday.

“With the roads being icy and then if it’s steady snowing, I can’t get anywhere,” Williams said.

Since many roads were still not cleared, some instructors of on-campus classes gave students the option of attending on Zoom. Others held on-campus classes with the opportunity to make up what was missed if a student could not attend due to weather.

Julie Smith, an instructor in the School of Communications, teaches one on-campus class. Smith said she heard from several students this week who could not make it to class because of transportation troubles and road conditions.

“I typically do not do half-Zoom, half in-person classes. I either do 100% Zoom, or 100% in-person,” Smith said. “Everything is on Canvas, and I encourage them to look over the material that we went over in class and ask me if they have any questions, and I will follow up with them in the next class.”

Those students that had the option, or were required, to tune-in via Zoom this week have by now become accustomed to attending class in situations where we otherwise would not (for example, during lockdowns in March last year). Several majors are offering only hybrid classes. 

Advertising and Marketing Communications major Ben Sullivan said his classes were not impacted by the weather, as they are all hybrid. However, Sullivan expressed the shortcomings of moving all classes to strictly Zoom.

“If anything, it was just not that optimal to sit for 8 to 10 hours on Zoom some days,” Sullivan said.

Williams said her classes were not affected, since she is a Business Administration major most of her classes are either hybrid or online. 

For students in majors with all-hybrid courses, it is not class changes they are impacted by; it is work. While class attendance was not a problem for Williams this week, she could not make it to campus on Wednesday for her job as a building assistant.

“I haven’t been able to get to campus since I live 45 minutes away, so the snow has really been affecting my job,” Williams said.

Campus buildings were closed on Monday and Tuesday, so there were no building assistants on campus those two days.

Stiff, who also works as a building assistant, shared similar concerns with Williams.

“I couldn’t get here, I couldn’t go to work,” Stiff said. “Wednesday I couldn’t drive up and had to get someone to cover.”

Weather forecasts for Thursday by the National Weather Service warn of black ice developing overnight into Friday, as the temperatures drop into single-digits and re-freezes the water from snowmelt during the afternoon.

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Kate McCracken
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