Classes canceled, power outages hit off campus as winter weather intensifies

Kristen Dehaven | Photo Editor

By Mallory Harris | Staff Writer

Baylor has canceled classes Monday and Tuesday due to extreme winter weather and power outages affecting more than 30,000 homes in the Waco area.

The Bill Daniel Student Center has been turned into a makeshift emergency warming shelter for off-campus students experiencing extended power and water outages. This option is limited to those who have no other options in need of heat, power or water.

Jason Cook, Baylor’s vice president for marketing and communications, explained that this weather is very unprecedented for the Waco area and has made the situation regarding the week’s activities very fluid.

“First and foremost, thing that students need to keep in mind [is] that this is an unprecedented weather event for the Waco area, and I know we’ve used that term ‘unprecedented’ a lot dating back to last year with COVID-19, but this truly is a significant weather event for our community,” Cook said.

When it comes to dorms and dining services, Cook said that there have not been many significant infrastructure damages. However, at almost the 9 o’clock hour on Monday night, residents of North and South Russell Residential Halls were evacuated due to a water main break that flooded the third floor. Residents were briefly moved to Penland Dining Hall, though they were quickly cleared to go back to their dorms.

Dining halls have been working with skeleton crews to ensure students get fed. Cook expressed great appreciation for the Aramark employees making sure on-campus students stay safe.

“Our dining team went in their personal vehicles and picked up staff on Sunday, and on Sunday night we housed them in extra quarantine housing that the university had available for COVID-19 [students] to ensure that we had staff to provide meals for on-campus students today,” Cook said. “So, we’re going at great lengths to be able to provide some resemblance of normal campus services in this unprecedented weather event.”

Cook said the move to cancel classes for Monday and Tuesday is due to the fact that lots of power outages in the area surrounding campus have left off-campus students without adequate internet access. Baylor will continue to update the community as they make decisions as to when online or on-campus instruction will resume.

Since classes were canceled, the university has made it clear that the days will be made up at some point within the semester. Cook explained that after getting through this week and looking at the weather day-by-day, the committee who oversees the academic calendar look at where the days may be made up. However, there is a challenge within the situation as the calendar is tightly arranged already due to the pandemic.

“It’s too early to tell when and how those days will be made up, but we just do not have much flexibility in the academic calendar since we started the semester a week late and then we’re ending the semester a week early due to COVID-19,” Cook said.

To encourage safety around campus, Baylor posted a video on Facebook that included students from the northern states sharing pearls of wisdom during this weather. Some of the major themes included layering up and staying off the roads. For those who are unfamiliar with icy road conditions, many advise to simply stay home unless it’s an emergency.

Despite the limiting of dining options around campus and few spaces to hang out with friends, Minneapolis sophomore Sam Alexon, who was showcased in the video and lives on campus, explained these are some of the biggest frustrations.

“Living on campus has been super convenient with not having to worry as much about losing power or water since Baylor has been really on top of all that,” Alexon said. “It’s also been nice to be in the dorms and have other people to lean on and share with.”

As the weather is predicted to get colder and storm again with more ice and snow, Baylor is making decisions into the week. Cook advised students to stay connected as the university makes updates every day and to stay in communication with professors as they wade through this situation as well.

This story is developing and will be updated as more information comes available.