One unexpected prerequisite for attending the University of Maine is the ability to tackle the harsh winters and cold temperatures that New England is known for. This semester, freezing rain and snow made move-in difficult. In response to winter storm Harper, UMaine was forced to take precautions and make adjustments to keep students safe during move-in weekend.
“While the recent storm did not have a significant impact on the re-opening of buildings and dorms, it certainly impacted the students and residents on-campus,” Resident Assistant (RA) Katie Dupuis, a second-year elementary education student said. “Many residents stayed in hotels, or with friends and family members until it was safe to move-in on Monday.”
RAs, faculty and staff sent out information and emails regarding the conditions of the weather on campus. After considering opening the dorms a day early on Saturday, Jan. 20, the university advised students to move-in on Monday, Jan. 21, after the storm had passed.
“The Friday before the storm I didn’t believe how bad it was going to be, especially since most of the news came from customers coming through the grocery check out,” Carrie Middleton, a second-year international affairs student from New Jersey said. “However, the buses that travel through Maine started to cancel… Finally, on Wednesday morning I was able to fly back to campus.”
Storm Harper brought with it heavy gusts of wind, snow, sleet, ice and hail which resulted in power outages, broken electrical equipment, fallen trees and significant damage to personal property. The storm crossed over the Ohio Valley and Midwest, making its way into Maine Sunday afternoon.
UMaine Student Life sent out an alert to students and staff Jan. 18 recommending residential students move in on Monday, Jan. 21, as well as encouraging all students to travel to campus only when it was safe to do so.
“Although [RA staff] were not directly instructed to reach out to our residents about inclement weather, I reached out to residents via email and referenced the University’s website and TXT service for more info,” Dupuis said. “I also kept an open line of communication with residents whose flights were delayed, for example, and made myself available to answer questions throughout the storm.”
Students from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine had to adapt and adjust to traveling in the midst of Storm Harper. Katherine Reardon, a second-year English student from Massachusetts stayed in a hotel room for 3 nights to wait for the storm to pass.
“Everyone was frazzled and trying to figure out what to do, the dorms didn’t open early as planned so we had to make other arrangements,” Reardon said.
Students were originally instructed to begin moving into their dorms on Sunday, but many waited until late Monday night.
“I live about 6 hours away, I was hoping to drive up halfway Saturday, and then the rest of the way Sunday and move in,” Taylor Chomitz, second-year sociology student from Connecticut said. “When I realized there was a bad storm, I was hoping they would open the dorms early. I had to drive halfway on Friday, and stay at a friends place on Saturday. On Sunday, I dug out my car and moved back into my dorm.”
With conditions getting increasingly worse and freezing rain coating the streets, some out-of-state residents had to miss classes and other beginning of the semester activities in order to travel safely.
“Originally I was supposed to take a series of buses up to school on Sunday because that’s when the dorms open, but my family thought it would be better if I went up on Saturday and stayed overnight,” Elizabeth Murray, a first-year environmental horticulture student from New Jersey said. “The buses canceled for both Saturday and Sunday, so I got a flight back on Tuesday and missed my first two classes. My professors were all really understanding and just happy the students were staying safe.”
Wind and freezing temperatures remained constant throughout the beginning of the week, with icy sidewalks and unplowed campus roads causing unsafe conditions for students. Many were advised by professors and peers to walk, rather than drive on the dangerous roads. Teachers made announcements to their students and many allowed those who were missing class because of the storm to be excused.
“I’m from southern Maine, so the drive to Orono is about two and a half hours. Thankfully, I arrived on-campus before the storm hit, so I had time to unpack and prepare for RA winter training. Generally, I try to avoid going out during a storm. It’s important for driver’s to make that call ahead of time, before hitting the road and endangering themselves or others,” Dupuis said.
Traveling safely and mindfully is an important part of living at UMaine, and for more tips and safety information from the police department please visit https://umaine.edu/police/.