Hampshire Closes Due to Snowstorm
Issue   |   Wed, 11/02/2011 - 01:29

The Nor’easter that swept through the Pioneer Valley left each of the Five Colleges without power over the weekend, with Hampshire College electing to evacuate their student body on Sunday after being unable to restore power until early yesterday morning. The Five College community proved as strong as ever, as one third of the Hampshire students looking to get off campus were taken in by Mount Holyoke.

During the snowstorm and resulting upheaval, Hampshire relied heavily on residential life interns to help facilitate the evacuation of the campus.

“We lost power in the dorms. Jenkins and Bacon [the two main dormitories] have a generator, so we had emergency lights on,” said Whitney Klare ‘14, the Hampshire Student Trustee Intern and Jenkins House Intern. “We had outlets so people could charge their phones and laptops in the bathrooms. Even though Jenkins’ generator was working, there’s another dorm section called Merrill and their generator was not working.”

In Hampshire dorms, like others throughout the Five Colleges, students endured a lack of power on Saturday night. The Hampshire Emergency Response Team met the following day, briefing the interns later on. On 3:30 p.m. Sunday, the decision was made to evacuate the campus.

“Since this was Sunday, we did have limited resources with what professional staff was available to help organize this relocation, so Residence Life was really relying on the interns to help relay the information to our residents,” Klare explained.

“The reason we chose to evacuate was because the fire alarms would not have been working, and, also, there was no heat, and it was going to be 19 degrees on Sunday night,” Klare continued. “It was the interns’ job to let our residence know that we would be evacuating within the hour.” According to her, the interns put up posters and conducted walk-throughs in the hallways.

As students decided whether or not to leave campus, they were asked to check out at their dorm’s housing office.

“It was totally unexpected,” said Dana Jefferson, a first-year who ended up staying with off-campus friends.

“At that point, we still did not know where we were going to be evacuating [to]. We were trying to work with the other colleges to see what places were available for potentially allowing our students [to stay],” said Klare.

Late Sunday afternoon, the Hampshire student body gathered in the school gymnasium, packing their bags for two days’ worth of supplies. As the Response Team constructed a plan to relocate students to Mount Holyoke, the PVTA provided transportation. Because of the lack of power however, Hampshire was unable to keep to the original timeline.

Klare, along with the other residence life interns, aimed to hold programming activities, such as projecting movies and hosting ghost stories to “keep people entertained, keep high energy and help people stay positive,” said Klare.

Both the staff and the students at Mount Holyoke provided amenities for the Hampshire students, including cots, pillows, blankets and towels, as well as allowing the students to use their locker rooms to shower. And even though Holyoke was limited to one generator-powered dining hall due to the storm, their dining services willingly recognized the Hampshire students as their own, providing students with free meals. In the spirit of the holiday, Mount Holyoke students also shared Halloween candy.

Reflecting on the situation, Klare said, “I feel like people are making the best of it. When I look around, there’s a kid playing a harmonica, someone on a guitar, people playing cards, people watching movies [and] sharing laptops...everyone’s active...it’s really nice to not just have a bunch of kids slumped over in a gym.”

Hampshire will welcome students back starting on Wednesday afternoon.