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Snow blankets R.I., won't let up

Rhode Island was overwhelmed with nearly 20 inchess of now over winter break, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

The first snowstorm, Dec. 26, was significant, resulting in 16 to 18 inches of snow, but because it took place while the University was closed, it did little to disturb the University's operation, said Carlos Fernandez, assistant vice president for facilities, operations and engineering. "We (had) to call in and get out grounds people and our custodial staff to come to work and clear the snow, which we are used to" doing.

The University opened Jan. 3, but University officials chose to shut it down when a second snowstorm arrived Jan. 12. The blizzard coated Rhode Island with between 14 and 20 inches of snow, depending on the area, Fernandez said.

"It was kind of weird seeing all the buildings locked up," said Jonathan Hilgart '14, who arrived at Brown Jan. 10 for track. "Brown looks really good in the wintertime," he said. "Snow is fine for the first couple days, but then you kind of get tired of it."

"The intensity and timing of that (second) storm — with very heavy snow and high winds predicted for the early hours — was particularly acute," Russell Carey, senior vice president for corporation affairs and governance, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

While snow conditions impeded traveling in Rhode Island, there was no widespread outrage in Providence, Donna Butler, director of custodial services said. In New York City and Boston city officials received much criticism for their handling of the blizzard.  Both Butler and Fernandez said good preparation and communication helped them weather the storm efficiently.

"The decision was made ahead of time," Fernandez said. "Every organization is about how prepared you are."

"Communication is a key factor, and I believe we have good communication here at Brown," he added. "We communicate with everyone internally as well as externally."

Snow was expected to start falling at 4 or 5 a.m. and drop three inches per hour until noon, Fernandez said.  "It was a heavy accumulation of snow when everyone was going to be traveling to Brown."

Around 4 p.m. on Jan. 11, state officials called for all state businesses to close and recommended that people stay off the roads "unless absolutely necessary," Elizabeth Gentry, assistant vice president for financial and administrative services, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.  "Brown and most other businesses followed the recommendations and closed so that the Department of Public Works could do their job and get the streets cleaned up."

Members of the Brown community received an e-mail that night announcing the closure of University offices and operations.

"Our recommendation to close for the day was consistent with that advice and the forecast for that particular storm," Carey said.

"The snow came on Wednesday. We made the decision on Tuesday afternoon to close because of the information that we (had) available to us at the time that we were able to make the right decisions," Fernandez said.

Schools were closed in all of Providence and most of Rhode Island, and parking bans were imposed in most Rhode Island cities, Gentry said.  

"Getting cars off the street and free of access… was a huge help," said Butler. "It made it safer and we were able to access places better." 


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