Snowstorm Strands Commuter Students

by Taylor Brethauer, Cathy Goodyear & Rosa Ortega, Editor-in-Chief, Social Media Editor & Contributor

The snow started coming and it did not stop coming for many hours on Thursday, Nov. 15, causing many commuter students to become stranded on campus.

What was predicted as a light snowfall plus a mix of frozen rain quickly turned into approximately six inches of snow according to NBC New York. In some areas of the boroughs, commutes turned a simple drive down the highway into a 10-hour or more trek home. This was no different for Manhattan College’s commuter population.

Snowfall began around 2 p.m. and continued to pile up into the night. The College officially sent out a statement at 4:39 p.m., closing up for the evening and to reevaluate in the morning.

“The College is closed as of 4:30 PM today,” the MC Jasper 911 system stated in e-mail and text. “This includes all offices. Essential personnel should continue to report.”

Some students, like senior Sebastian Peña, a chemical engineering major, were still in class at the time the e-mail was sent.

“At 4:30 p.m. I had a class on Thursday and it was already snowing. There was a pretty good amount of snow on the floor and was still snowing hard […] the teacher did not know about the e-mail so we were still working like a normal class,” said Peña.

They continued class without realizing the college was closed. It wasn’t until the class began an online quiz did they see the e-mail.

The professor decided to carry on with the quiz and end class after its completion.

“Once that was over I left the building and it was even worse than before. There was a lot of snow and I was stuck in school since then,” said Peña on Friday.

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At this point in the evening on Thursday, traffic on Broadway and all side roads were backed up as road conditions worsened. Interstate 87, a major highway many students use to get home, was riddled with accidents, causing extreme traffic. Trains were cancelled and the subways were running on a delayed schedule. The city, much like the snow, was frozen.

“An important reason on why I chose not to take the risk and just go home was that I was reading and hearing from different people that there were buses and cars stuck on the road and by checking the GPS traffic, to go home would take more than 3 hours. On a good day my commute is normally just 15 minutes. I was waiting for the conditions to get better but they didn’t so I ended up staying over,” said Peña.

This left commuter students in an unfortunate predicament. Most could not go home due to the traffic or train delays, some were relying on rides from other students or family members who could not get there in time.

Peña remained on campus for 32.5 hours in total.

Students Liam Moran and Rabea Ali contacted administration, requesting that the Kelly Commons stay open for the night to house commuters.

Moran stepped into the role of helping commuters after speaking to Provost Clyde, vice president of student life, Richard Satterlee and dean of students, Michael Carey.

At 10:29 p.m., Student Engagement tweeted out, “Attention all commuter students: the first two floors of the Kelly Commons will remain open all night if you can’t get home! If you’re stuck at Manhattan College you’re welcome to go there for the night. Public Safety will be there too.”

The news spread quickly across social media platforms.

At 11:29 p.m., the following e-mail was sent out by Marilyn Carter, director of commuter services and outreach: “To any and all commuters stranded on campus, please come to Kelly Commons. Administration has allowed commuter students to stay overnight in the building. You will need you [sic] ID. Please try to make it by 12am.” The e-mail ended with her office’s phone number.

Moran felt that majority of students were relieved at the opening of Kelly Commons.

“It was a huge relief to be able to make it to a place and know ‘hey I can actually stay the night.’ especially with the snow and such as it was. We as commuters often stay on edge when the weather changes and we can’t get home; which oftentimes results into restless nights or even all nighters waiting for traffic or the trains to start working again,” said Moran.

While most students did make their way to the Commons, many stayed in O’Malley Library, which is open 24-hours anyways.

Karthik Maddur, a senior Electrical Engineering major, is one of the students who stayed in Kelly late into the night.

“I am commuting from Yonkers, New York, which is very close by. I have my own personal vehicle, a car, I had planned to take the train, a bus, or my car but I had to eliminate my car just because of the traffic and the amount of snow there is. The traffic on the highways was ridiculous and train would have taken way too long and couldn’t take the bus because some of the buses stopped running,” said Maddur.

Ali, who was personally affected by the storm, felt strongly about the situation in a personal context.

“Quite simply, I was one of many stranded on campus and should I not have had amazing gracious friends, I’d have been screwed should the Commons have closed at midnight as the original intention was. Furthermore, I was thinking of others in the same situation and those that were trying to make it to MC after attempting the transit and realizing it was incredibly unsafe and unrealistic. One of the people attempting to make it to MC for the evening happened to be my brother,” said Ali.

These quick accommodations saved many students from traveling in the storm, but some students thought a plan should’ve been in place before the snow began falling.

In terms of food, since Starbucks and the Marketplace were closed, Best Deli on W 242nd St. donated fruit for the evening. In the morning, Locke’s Loft was opened to all commuter students for free.

It is unclear what plans will be made to prevent something like this happening again.

Maddur had her personal opinions about this, “first I think it is very obvious the school needs to tell everyone that the school is closed before this entire thing happened. That would eliminate all of this trouble, the second is if this were to happen again, the school should have a plan on where commuters should stay, for example, lounges, extra dorms, in Kelly which happened because of the Commuter students Association and Liam, and food to be provided.”

Moran, who served as point person for the entire evening, had his own thoughts, “the biggest issue of this situation was how late we got the okay and the word out. We and the NYC area were caught off guard by this storm. I know administration will be working on a contingency plan to make sure this doesn’t happen again. This is a step in the right direction. The storm last night placed a lot of commuters at risk, something I feel we as an institution have the moral obligation in mitigating,” said Moran.

Friday, Nov. 16 began on a delayed schedule with the College not opening until 9 a.m. Classes that started before 9 a.m. were cancelled. Some students were given excused absences in order to go home, like Ali who had to miss a 9 a.m. exam. Two of her classes were cancelled.

Others were given unexcused absences despite not going home the evening before

As of right now, there is no snow forecast for the days leading up to Thanksgiving break.

Moran wanted to thank those that helped during the night, saying, “Gourmet Dining really came to our rescue, Nick personally bringing food and drinks brought tears to my eyes as I was really worried how I was going to get commuters food. Best Deli also helped with their donation. To the multiple resident students that bought extra pillows and blankets, I’m still beyond thanks and touched at your compassion. It helped us so much. A big thanks also to my boss Marilyn Carter for picking up in the middle of the night and early morning to give hourly updates on the situation and giving me guidance.”