Students living in the Marsh, Tyler and Plimpton dormitoriess on the Hill were forced to evacuate their dormitories on Sunday evening, due to the crippling snowstorm that cut off power in several buildings across campus on Saturday night and left the dormitories without light or heat.
Dormitories on the Hill are connected to a separate power grid than the buildings on the immediate campus, and therefore did not receive power when it was restored to the rest of campus; hence the evacuation. Students were asked to check into Lewis-Sebring Commons, where housing was provided if the students could not spend a night with friends in other dormitories across campus. Valentine Dining Hall, which quickly became a hub of campus activity as the only building with power and an Internet connection, remained open until 9:00 p.m. on Sunday.
“The Police said that the emergency systems went out of power, resulting in no lighting and no heat [on] the Hill. [The Resident Counselors] were asked to help evacuate the students from the dorms as it would have been too cold and dangerous to stay there at night,” said Mike Milov ’14, RC of Marsh House. The lack of any form of lighting or heat made the conditions of the houses inhospitable for the residents on Sunday night.
Students on the Hill reported disappointment at the evacuation, after having enjoyed the bonding experience the snowstorm had provided.
“We found ourselves gathered in the common room with a few drinks, blankets, and, of course, flashlights. It was a great chance for the different residents to get together, catch up and talk about the absurdity of the snow in October,” said Zack Gerdes ’14, the RC of Tyler House. Students at Marsh reported similar experiences.
“It brought us together as a dorm — sitting by the fire, eating shared food and chatting,” said Abigail Gray ’14, one of the residents at Marsh. The dorm communities, according to the residents had come together in this time of crisis, playing games and talking to keep themselves busy.
“It was adorable,” commented Hannah Greenwald ’14. “It was the perfect opportunity for the various room groups to mix it up and get to know their neighbors,” added Gerdes.
Liya Rechtman ’14 explained, “It’s really hard sometimes, when you’re in the Amherst environment, to force yourself to stop working and take a break. Yesterday literally forced me to do so, however, and that felt good. It’s also interesting to see Amherst not be perfectly in control of every situation for a change … to be honest, it’s kind of fun.”
Students are now allowed to return to the dormitories on the Hill to collect their belongings, although power has not yet been restored in these dorms, and they have not yet been allowed to move back in. “Western Massachusetts Electric Company still has not been able to restore power to [those] residences. …[The] College may not allow students to stay in these residences overnight, as they do not have lighting of any sort (not to mention the lack of heat),” said an email from Area Coordinator Pamela Stawasz to residents of Humphries, Marsh, Plimpton and Tyler last night.
Students who can are encouraged to continue staying with their friends. “My friends on campus have been really supportive and helpful,” said Greenwald.
Though many students are still camping out with their friends, the College has continued to provide shelter and bedding to those who need it at Lewis-Sebring Commons.