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The curtailing operation

After watching the weather, many students lie awake hoping for a snow day, but few know of the efforts that go into determining whether or not to cancel classes.

New England weather has always been unpredictable, but with the help of Dr. Eric Kelsey from the Department of Atmospheric Science and Chemistry at Plymouth State University, it becomes a little clearer.

“The goal is to make the announcement by 4 a.m. if possible,” said Chris Clement, vice president for finance and administration at UNH. “A declaration of curtailed operations means that only personnel who perform priority support services are required to report to work or to remain at work.”

Clement and Kelsey rely on a six-category agenda for cancelling school. The categories are timing, snowfall, intensity, wind, sky cover, and temperature. Each category has a different rule when going into a cancelation.

“It’s clear forecasting weather is not an exact science,” said Clement.

Another factor that goes into a snow day cancellation is common sense. If the conditions are visibly poor, and the authoritative figures decide it would be unsafe for professors and commuters to drive, the call will be made.

The UNH Police Department pairs up with Larry Van Dessel, the executive director of the UNH’s facility services, to determine a plan for clearing the snow.

“We manage them via [three] separate groups,” reads a slide show Van Dessel and the police department present to prepare for snow days. “ [The] ‘A’ Shift – they ‘prepare the campus’ for full operations, ‘B’ Shift – they ‘hold the campus open’ [and] ‘C’ Shift – they do the tremendous volume of ‘hand work’ needed (where equipment can not be used).”

All three of these shifts will continue after the initial snowfall to ensure that the campus is safe for student and faculty to travel.

When a snow day does occur, hall directors often put on events to keep students occupied during the day.

“Sometimes during curtailed operations I’ll put on a program to give any bored residents something to do,” said Kevin Deschler, the hall director of Adams Tower West. “Last year you could find me making pancakes, cookies, or hot chocolate – really, anything to warm my residents up after a day in the snow.”

All of these events are optional, but can provide students with some type of entertainment during the snow day.

“Whatever the program, it’s typically pretty relaxed. Residents can come and go as they please. It’s their day off, after all,” Deschler said.

As many students get ready to celebrate a snow day, an abundance of university personnel are hard at work trying to make the roads and sidewalks passable for the students brave enough to venture outside.

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