By TOM SPENCER, Staff Writer
Tuesday brought the University of New Hampshire and Seacoast to a standstill as the region was hit with almost 2 feet of snow, courtesy of winter storm Juno. The area was placed under a blizzard warning at 10 p.m. on Monday evening and wasn’t lifted until early Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service.
According to Durham Town Administrator Todd Selig, wind gusts reached 25-35 miles per hour and visibility was incredibly poor.
“It’s windy. It’s cold. The driving conditions are absolutely terrible. It’s near white-out conditions at the time,” he said. “The piles of snow downtown have gotten quite high.
“The snow is blowing back to the roads as fast as we can blow it off. [The roads] are heavily snow covered because of the wind effect,” Selig said on Tuesday, mid-blizzard. “We’re advising people if they don’t have to be out and about, to stay home.”
In a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Maggie Hassan asked residents to be wary of traveling, as snow accumulations were as high as 4 inches per hour in some parts of the Granite State. She later announced that New Hampshire was under a state of emergency.
The university extended curtailed operations to Wednesday as well, suspending all Wildcat Transit services.
According to Manager of Holloway Commons, Deb Scanlon, UNH Dining Services employees slept over at UNH or stayed in hotels rooms in Durham in order to keep the dining halls open during the storm. She added that over 5,000 meals were served in Holloway Commons on Tuesday during the storm.
According to area director Brandon Crosby, the area manager of Philbrook Dining hall, There were members of the dining staff who spent the night in conference rooms in Holloway Commons.
“We made one of our conference rooms as nice as we could,” Crosby said. “[We] brought in sofas and TVs and set up beds and mints on the pillows.”
Considering the many moving parts of the snow, Crosby is proud of the service the dining halls delivered.
“It went fantastic, I can’t tell you the level of dedication that our dining staff has to serve the UNH students,” Crosby said. “I’m not trying to do an advertisement for dining. I’m talking about the men and women—students and regular staff, who stayed here.”
The public officials of UNH and Durham generally believe Juno went well, though some challenges still remain in dealing with the aftermath of the storm.
For the Durham police, one of the factors that made handling the storm go well was the fact that the roads remained largely clear of automobiles.
“We really had minimal issues,” said Durham Police Chief David Kurz. “Most people stayed off the roads. There was some foot traffic, but most stores were closed so there weren’t really many opportunities to go anywhere far.”
The bulk of the police’s work during the storm involved working to clear the roads with the public plows.
“We fall back on what we can do to support the public service, clearing roads,” Kurz said. “We had to tow a few cars, but not many, which is good because that’s not really what we want to do.”
But according to Kurz, the work is far from over. There are still major bodies of snow that must be cleared.
“Tonight we’ll be working on the big 30-foot piles of snow along Main Street,” said Kurz, referring to continued snow removal for Wednesday. “Those will have to be cleared.”
But overall, Kurz felt the community was well prepared for Juno.
“The storm was so well advertised, people had already been to the grocery store. We’re grateful we didn’t lose power,” Kurz said. “People almost had a chance to enjoy it.”
In order for a storm to be classified as a blizzard according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there must be sustained or frequent gusts of wind exceeding 35 mph or more and falling snow that reduces visibility to a quarter of a mile. According to Durham’s administrator Todd Selig, Juno met these conditions, dropping 28 inches of snow across the town.
“Juno packed a wallop,” Selig said. “The snow fell fast and furious throughout the day yesterday. We had high wind that would often pick the snow up and blow it back over the roads as fast as we could clear it away.”
According to Selig, the clearing process went well except for one dump truck, which needed repairing at one point.
“…It was repaired and back on the road within an hour,” Selig said. “Our staff has been working 48 hours straight and they will be released throughout the day to go home to their families.”
Selig stressed the sacrifice made by the public service employees under these extreme weather conditions.
“[UNH] residents stay home, and they wake up the next day and the road is somehow magically clear,” Selig said. “They may not think about the people who keep the community safe, the unsung heroes who go about their business and get the job done.”
All officials agreed that one of the major positive points was the fact that UNH did not lose power throughout the blizzard.
“We’re very grateful we didn’t lose power,” said Erika Mantz, the director of UNH media relations.
On Thursday, UNH resumed normal hours. According to AccuWeather, more snow is expected for early Friday morning and on Super Bowl Sunday.
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