BY CHRISTINA BURCH AND JEFF CRAIG
Tuesday morning’s winter storm forced the university to cancel classes for four consecutive days last week, due to hazardous road conditions across Abilene.
ACU Chief of Police Jimmy Ellison said closing the university always is a difficult decision, especially on consecutive days.
“The decision to close the university is never and easy one; however, safety always remains the primary concern and consideration,” Ellison said.
Ellison said the university has a weather closure team that decides when to close campus. The team consists of the ACU chief of police, senior adviser to the president, vice president for student life, the provost and the human resources director.
“People need to understand it’s a combined decision between university offices,” Ellison said. “The reason all those people are on there is because a decision to close impacts academics, employees, students and, overall, impacts the institution as a whole.”
Ellison said this week’s storm is a reminder that students should enroll in ACU’s alert program. He said the program is an important way of communicating campus closures and other campus issues to students. Students can enroll in the program at acu.edu/acualert.
In addition to adding hazards to automobile travel, icy conditions also present a hazard for people traveling on foot, said Zane Dennis, executive director of facilities and campus development.
“Our number one goal is to make it safe for anyone who steps on campus,” Dennis said. “The majority is going to be students; however, we still have service employees, etc. So we have to make things as safe as possible.”
Crews have been applying ice melt all week, but Dennis said crews are having a hard time clearing the ice.
“The problem were having is the ice is very thick; the ice melt doesn’t work as well, and it only works down to 10 degrees, so if colder, it doesn’t work as well, creating more issues,” Dennis said.
In addition to icy roads and sidewalks, the storm has caused other problems across campus. Dennis said the power outages on campus Wednesday morning were the result of using more energy than the grid can produce. He also said problems like broken pipes could persist even after the ice and snow melts.
“Pipes froze that we don’t know about yet, and we wont know until it starts thawing,” Dennis said. “That’s when there’s a tendency for them to burst. Friday could be horrible day for broken pipes.”
Dennis has worked in facilities at ACU for 30 years and said this winter storm was the worst he has ever seen.
“I’ve never seen this much moisture with the amount of freezing temps for this long of a span,” Dennis said. “Typically, Abilene gets it one night, and the next day it’s gone. Very seldom does it last this long. So in my book, this is probably one of the worst we’ve had.”
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