Hurricane hits campus, immobilizes East Coast
Published: Monday, October 29, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 29, 2012 23:10
Hurricane Sandy began to rock the East Coast with high winds and storm surges yesterday morning, causing widespread power outages, flooding and wind damage. The University cancelled all Monday classes and events as students took shelter in their dormitories.
The storm, which continued into today, has been large and destructive, causing more than 385,000 customers across Massachusetts to lose power by 10:30 p.m. yesterday, with winds gusting as high as 66 mph in Middlesex County and 85 mph in other parts of Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service. Millions more people were expected to be affected across the East Coast throughout yesterday and today.
In Waltham, 3,963 residents were without power at 10 p.m. yesterday, according to the Waltham News Tribune.
Parts of campus lost power for varying periods yesterday, including the Foster Mods, the Charles River Apartments and the Village. Power flickered in other buildings, including the Shapiro Campus Center.
Rainfall was expected to total four to eight inches in the Mid-Atlantic region, and only one to three inches in New England.
As of 10:15 last night, ABC News was reporting one hurricane-related death in Connecticut, five in New York, and two in New Jersey. The storm killed 69 people when it passed through the Caribbean over the weekend.
In a campuswide email on Saturday, Dean of Student Life Rick Sawyer wrote that University staff worked all weekend to reduce the potential damage from the storm, by “bringing inside items that could get wind blown [and] sandbagging exterior doorways that have a history of water build up etc.” Sawyer mentioned that the biggest concern was flooding and the potential temporary loss of power, although he called the latter possibility “pretty remote.”
University President Frederick Lawrence announced in an email to the Brandeis community at 7:23 p.m. on Sunday night that “classes and other scheduled events on campus” taking place on Monday would be cancelled. Lawrence cited Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s request that the state’s colleges and universities cancel activities in his email.
Lawrence offered similar advice in his email sent on Sunday, warning of the potential effects of the hurricane and encouraging all to “prepare for the storm and take precautions to ensure your safety,” including charging phones and portable devices, obtaining a flashlight and stocking up on batteries and checking that windows are securely closed.
On Saturday, a day before his recommendation that colleges and universities cancel classes, Patrick declared a state of emergency, according to the Boston Herald and Globe. “While we continue to hope for the best, we’re preparing for the worst,” he said.
According to the Herald, Boston public schools were among the many coastal cities that cancelled classes yesterday in anticipation of the storm.
Many local colleges and universities closed yesterday as well, including Bentley College in Waltham. Some schools, such as Framingham State University and the University of New Hampshire, are closed today as well.
As of 4 p.m. yesterday, 1,300 National Guard soldiers had been deployed in Massachusetts, with as many as 1,000 more expected to join the recovery efforts by today.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority shut down all service at 2 p.m. yesterday, according to the Boston Globe. The Globe article reported that the MBTA administration was worried about dangerously high wind speeds and hoped to resume service by this morning, but were unsure of a reopening time because there were multiple trees and other objects down across tracks and bus routes.
New York, Philadelphia and New Jersey transit systems also all closed yesterday afternoon, according to reports from Reuters.
The New York Stock Exchange closed yesterday and remains closed today, though traders are still working electronically.
Both candidates for president also halted their campaigning and fundraising for yesterday and today, instead asking donors for contributions to the Red Cross. President Barack Obama said at a press conference that he was more concerned about the impact of the storm than the upcoming election.
“I’m worried about the impact on families, and I’m worried about our first responders. … The election will take care of itself next week,” he said, according to The New York Times.
As the storm continued to batter campus last night, Lawrence sent out another email announcing that classes would take place today, and he invited students to gather at the Stein for free pizza and soda.
—Tate Herbert contributed reporting