By: Valerie Chapman-Stockwell
Posted: Jan. 19, 2012
Central Washington University routinely remains open even when winter storms create havoc for institutions west of the Cascades. The last time Central was affected by severe weather was in 2003, when classes were cancelled–but even then Central did not close. This is due to the careful monitoring of the weather conditions by the Departments of Public Safety and Police Services and Facilities Management.
For Mike Luvera, director of Public Safety and Police Services, it’s all about keeping Central’s students, faculty, and staff safe.
“We don’t close very often,” admitted Luvera, who has been up since 4:30 a.m. checking on road conditions. During extreme weather, he is in close contact with his night shift officers, who keep him apprised of any major changes over night.
“Basically,” Luvera continued, “I check to see if the major highways are open and if traffic in Ellensburg is moving smoothly.”
He also confers with Bill Vertrees, assistant vice president for facilities management, to check on the condition of the campus and if groundskeepers are able to maintain walkways, parking lots, and thoroughfares.
“We look at closures from a safety standpoint,” he said. “If people are able to get to offices and classes, then there really isn’t a reason to close.”
However, should something happen that would impact personal safety, such as a sustained power outage during cold weather, Luvera and Vertrees would confer, and make a joint recommendation as to the appropriate actions for CWU President Jim Gaudino to take, up to and including closing the university.
“The final decision would be made by the president,” said Luvera.
CWU’s Ellensburg campus did close in 1996 when a storm dumped more than 18 inches of snow. The weather warmed, the snow began to melt–and then froze. Snow fell again for a frosty and weighty combination that put as much as 100 pounds per square foot of pressure on campus roof-tops.
Vertrees recalls that the campus closed and facilities staff brought in several big track snow-throwers. A big lift placed the snow throwers on roofs and spent the day clearing the weight from campus buildings.
Other CWU campuses located throughout western Washington and parts of central Washington closed today. Information about the status of each is available by clicking “campuses” at the top of the CWU home page, and choosing a location. The pages are updated as conditions change.