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Snow severity takes Clement by surprise

With snowstorms in spring and heat waves in winter, New England weather is arguably one of the hardest things to predict.

On Monday, March 21, Durham was hit by a snowstorm that was predicted to deliver only a dusting of snow. According to WMUR, the total snowfall for the area was approximately 6 inches. The decision to not cancel or delay Monday’s classes was made at 4 a.m. that morning, and as noted by an email sent out to the UNH community by Vice President of Finance and Administration Chris Clement, “The storm’s unpredictable nature ultimately proved our decision [of not cancelling or delaying classes] to be wrong.”

“I’m responsible, I take this very seriously,” said Clement. “I made a mistake, I own it and am truly sorry for the decision.”

Clement took over the post of Vice President of Finance and Administration in 2015. Clement’s experience came from working at the New Hampshire Department of Transportation where he was the commissioner.

“Initially the snowfall amounts were much more significant, until a few days before when the predictions turned into a dusting,” Clement said.

As many New Englanders can agree, the weather here is unpredictable; this can make Clement’s job very difficult when it comes to cancelling or delaying school for the day.

“Leading up to the storm, we were watching it all weekend long, working with the school’s meteorologist, Dr. Eric Kelsey,” Clement said. “I was up at 3 a.m. on Monday assessing the snowfall in Durham.”

UNH pairs up with Kelsey, a research assistant professor and director of research from Plymouth State University, to help predict upcoming snow storms in order to decide whether to curtail operations or not. Kelsey and Clement rely on six categories when determining a cancelation. The categories are timing, snowfall, intensity, wind, sky cover and temperature.

“We had the conference call at 4 a.m. and all major state routes leading to the university had minimal to no snow accumulation, and [we] made the decision not to curtail,” said Clement.

Clement remains apologetic about his decision claiming it was a mistake not to curtail.

“I’ve learned each [storm] is different,” Clement said. “[We] always want to err on the side of caution.”

Mistakes have been made, and Clement takes this one as a learning experience.

“When the next one comes you can use data to make [a] better [informed] decision next time,” Clement said.

New England has always had very unpredictable winter weather, especially this past year as it has been very mild. Clement and Kelsey used many models to try and figure out how the storm would pan out.

“It’s my honor to work with so many professionals on campus, I take privilege and honor [in it] every day,” Clement said apologetically when talking about the students and staff who were upset with the mis-call about the storm.

Clement, with the help of Kelsey, will remember this event when deciding to curtail operations next time a snowstorm occurs.

“Safety is paramount,” Clement said.

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