While some students sled on lunch trays and cardboard boxes down a steep Lullwater Park slope, Campus Services staff shoveled snow in front of Dobbs University Center (DUC), doctors remained on call for emergencies and cafeteria employees kept the doors open for the sudden flood of students searching for something to eat.
Emory officially shut down the University last Tuesday during the snowstorm, which affected the schedules of students, staff and faculty.
Vice President and Deputy to the President Gary Hauk emailed the Emory community on Tuesday at noon writing that the University would officially close at 1 p.m. due to “severe weather conditions.” The shut down included all libraries and Cox Hall. The DUC closed for part of the day. Hauk also notified students on Tuesday evening that the University would be closed again on Wednesday.
While students found several ways to enjoy the day off in the two inches of snow — such as making snowmen on the quad and sledding in Lullwater — Tuesday marked one of the worst traffic jams in Atlanta’s recent history. The snow caused massive traffic gridlock, stranded students at Atlanta schools and left thousands of people to sleep in supermarkets, cars and hotels, according to a Jan. 29 Politico article.
Ultimately, the snow storm led to two deaths, more than 1,200 car accidents and 130 injuries, according to a Jan. 30 New York Times article.
In an email to the University on Wednesday, University President James W. Wagner extended the closure to Thursday, adding that he is thankful for the commitment of Emory Healthcare employees and others working to keep operations running.
“I am grateful for the extraordinary dedication of the many employees who have worked throughout the weather emergency to keep our buildings warm, our campus roads as clear as possible, our food services operating to the extent necessary, our emergency information up to date and our students safe,” Wagner wrote.
Student Health Services were also affected by the weather, causing a shift in scheduling and appointments.
Although the University officially closed at 1 p.m., staff addressed current appointments before leav ing, according to Assistant Vice President and Executive Director of Emory University Student Health and Counseling Services (EUSHCS) Michael Huey.
EUSHCS administrative staff worked until 11 p.m.on Tuesday night and resumed again at 8 a.m. on Wednesday to reschedule appointments canceled by the closure, Huey said.
He added that one physician even stayed behind on Tuesday afternoon to see the patients who were unable to wait due to their illness. A total of five patients were seen on Tuesday after EUSHCS officially closed.
According to Huey, EUSHCS psychiatrists and counseling staff remained available to patients with urgent mental health concerns and had a physician on call for urgent telephone consultation and time-sensitive medication refills.
Huey added that he heard about staff members’ “horrendous trips home” by Tuesday afternoon, including one nurse practitioner whose drive home took more than eight hours.
Campus Services’ response
To make these trips home possible, Campus Services worked to plow, shovel and de-ice roads and walkways, according to Chief of Staff for the Vice President of Campus Services Karen Salisbury.
A group of at least 60 staff members stayed behind on campus on Tuesday, such as Transportation employees that managed shuttles, police, mechanics, grounds crews, utility personnel and support services, Salisbury said.
Salisbury added they prioritized hospitals, clinics and the main shuttle route through Starvine Way to Woodruff Circle.
“We are very proud of the entire team working [during] this inclement weather event,” Salisbury said.
Ben Perlman, director of the DUC, said that he was also very appreciative of the Campus Services’ work to make sure there was salt and sand surrounding the DUC entryways.
According to Perlman, the DUC employees prepped for the week on Monday when they heard about the storm. This included making sure there was enough food, staff and salt to spread around the DUC.
Perlman added that although some DUC workers went home on Tuesday, many of the workers chose to stay.
Emory Dining and Sodexo also had a total of 15 employees stationed at the DUC on Tuesday, according to Senior Director of Emory Dining Dave Furhman.
According to Perlman, some DUC employees slept in cots in the DUC. The building is an evacuation zone for the University in emergency situations. Some employees, however, stayed in their offices and on couches in the DUC on Tuesday night, according to Manager of Human Resources forSodexo at Emory Teresa Minefee.
In addition, many employees slept in the cots made available at Clarimont Campus’s Student Activity and Academic Center (SAAC), according to Minefee.
Although it was hard work, Minefee said she knew how important it was to keep the DUC open and was happy to be able to help the students.
In addition to the workers that stayed, Perlman said that the student workers were very helpful in managing the DUC during weather closure.
College Senior and DUC student employee Niko Patel said that he had to leave for the DUC at 6:30a.m. to make sure the building was open for staff.
“I believe that the DUC handled itself extremely well,” Patel said.
According to Patel, dining services were set up by 7:30 a.m. to feed staff workers before they could return to clearing snow and spreading salt.
Perlman said the operation of the DUC couldn’t be facilitated without the help of Campus Services, students and custodial staff.
According to Furhman, the timing of the storm was inconvenient because Sodexo employees working afternoon and night shifts were unable to make it to campus.
Furhman added that many of the staff rely on public transportation and traveling to campus would not have been safe.
“Safety for all members of the University community is always our very first concern,” Furhman said.
According to Furhman, several Sodexo staff stayed overnight at The Emory Conference Center so that they could work on keeping the DUC open for students.
Although food trucks did not arrive until Thursday, Sodexo and DUC staff managed to maintain service for those with special dietary needs, including vegans, vegetarians and those with gluten intolerance.
“The Sodexo team has been working tirelessly since yesterday and I speak for the entire campus community expressing gratitude to the team,” Furhman said.
Late Thursday night, a website called “Thank You, Emory” was created and shared on social media, where members of the Emory community expressed gratitude for those who served during the severe weather.
College freshman Julianna Joss posted on the page that she was grateful for the sacrifices workers made to keep campus running.
“While I know so many workers had to carry out noble feats… please know that what you have done means the world to us,” Joss said.
College senior Pritika Gupta posted that after taking a step back from the snow on the ground helped her “comprehend just how much [Emory employees] have done.”
— By Stephen Fowler and Naomi Maisel
Photo by Mark Spicer