Woes to frosty winter weather

Polar vortex results in dangerous walking conditions around campus

Slippery steps were a result of the ice storm.
Slippery steps were a result of the ice storm.

With the polar vortex dipping temperatures in the northeast, the trek to class has proved hazardous for some students.

Snow, ice and chilling winds have been commonplace since the start of the new semester. Sidewalks have been covered in ice since a heavy winter rainfall on Monday, which brought ice sheets upwards of four inches thick across campus.

From New Year’s Eve to the start of term, about 200 dump truck loads of snow and ice were hauled off campus. The University is continuing its efforts to improve safety, including early morning monitoring of campus conditions to determine appropriate action for the day.

“It’s that vicious cycle of freeze, stop, freeze, stop, that makes walkways really challenging [to clear] sometimes,” Matt Barrett, grounds manager for Physical Plant Services, said.

Echoing this concern are students Nicole Relke and Janae Vlaar-Phillbrick.

“They did a good job clearing the ice on campus but towards Division and Earl, it’s really bad, so I slipped a few times. And I didn’t go to my morning class this morning because it was so cold,” Relke, ArtSci ’15, said.

“Some of the roads closer down to the lake are okay, but the ones running north to south through campus — the sidewalks — are really bad, especially along Albert St. by the Vic Hall parking lot,” Vlaar-Phillbrick, ArtSci ’16, said. “I avoid that way because it’s really slippery.”

Chris St. Clair, a weather broadcaster at The Weather Network, said that a weaker jet stream, a ribbon of air in the upper atmosphere created when warm and cold air meet, is the reason for this recent cold spell.

He equated the recent weather, originating from the Arctic, to maple syrup oozing out of a bottle.

“The cold air spilled to the South because the jet stream hasn’t been as strong and so it’s just all kind of pooled to the south,” he said. The south St. Clair refers to includes Kingston, which has experienced a wind chill warning this past week.

“The more you change the temperature over a short period of time, the windier it’s going to be. That’s why it’s been windy because we’ve flooded all this cold air in and it pushed all the warm air away,” he said.

The next few days will see improved weather conditions as temperatures this weekend are expected to rise significantly above the average daytime high of -5. According to St Clair, this also means precipitation.

“Every time we take this little trip where we go up above [the seasonal average], there is always some type of a storm associated with it,” he said.

“It’s likely to rain, maybe start as wet snow, go to rain, and then as the temperatures start to fall back down on Monday, the rain showers will likely go back to some snow.”

In sight, however, is a calm to the storm as days become increasingly longer and temperatures less severe, resembling a “January thaw”.

“It looks like the worst of it’s over,” he added.

“There will be cold days, but I don’t know that we’ll get days as cold as they have been, at least in the next three weeks.”

— With files from Nick Faris

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