Luther stays open during Polar Vortex

Olivia Schmidt, Staff Writer

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During the final week of J-term, a polar vortex descended from the Arctic to the Midwest, bringing historic low temperatures to much of the region. At its most severe, on Jan. 31 at 2 a.m., Decorah reached 29 degrees below zero, three degrees warmer than the recorded low for the day at the North Pole.  Luther remained open during the final week of January, in contrast to other schools and universities in the region, such as the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, Drake University, Coe College, Cornell College, and Wartburg College, who all cancelled classes and closed offices for at least a day.

Luther’s official statement (via the Luther College Facebook page and the email from President Carlson) reads as follows: “The campus will remain open this week during the dangerous arctic temperatures Tuesday evening through Thursday morning. Given that we are a residential campus, we will keep the campus open during this time to make sure students on campus have the necessary facilities and services. To ensure the continued safety of all on campus over the course of this week, we have taken additional actions and precautions.”

These measures included the implementation of a shuttle service between many campus buildings, alterations in facility hours, the cancellation of most extracurriculars, and the delayed departure of winter break shuttles from Wednesday evening to Thursday afternoon.

   Some on-campus courses also decided to cancel classes for students who wanted to leave Luther early to avoid travelling during the worst of the weather. For those who continued to have class as scheduled, many were advised to postpone their departures until travel conditions improved, or at least until Thursday afternoon.

In fact, some professors purposefully convened class early to intentionally keep their students out of danger. Professor Kate Narveson, who taught the “What Tolkien Read.” J-term class, considered the weather conditoins that would have made traveling difficult for students.

“I thought about canceling class, but my main concern was students getting home safely.” Narveson said. “I knew that some [students] had plans to leave after class, but I also knew that they were all going to be on campus, in their dorms, until then. So I emailed a lot of students the day before and strongly urged them to stay overnight [on]Wednesday, and a lot of them chose to do so and attend[ed] class the next morning. I figured that if Sam and Frodo could make it to Mount Doom, students could make it to class.”

For those who were on campus during the frigid stretch, life continued much as before, with a few notable transportation complications. Maddie Gregurek (‘22) had trouble starting her car.

“Security was super helpful and jumped my car for me even though it was 10 below zero with wind, but there were a ton of other people stuck with dead batteries, so it took them a few hours to get around to everyone.” Gregurek said.

An estimated 100-130 cars had to be re-started by school services within a three day period.

Bob Harri, Director of Campus Safety and Security, urged students to remain alert about weather forecasts and to be prepared to follow precautions in order to keep safe.

“The most important thing we can all do to keep ourselves safe during the winter season is to pay close attention to the often changing forecast and alter our outdoor plans accordingly.” Harri said. “It is wise to dress properly for the conditions and travel only when it is safe to do so. Watch out for one another and follow the safety tips sent out in the alert and the National Weather Service.”

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