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When the weather outside is frightful, and getting to work isn't so delightful...

Snow covered Campus
  The snow-covered campus is pretty, but winter weather can lead to some ugly conditions on the roads. Yet it's rare that The University of Iowa cancels classes due to severe winter weather. In general, faculty, staff, and students should assume that the University continues to function despite inclement weather. Photo by Tom Jorgensen.

This is an update of a story that ran in the Jan. 16, 2007, issue of fyi. See also the information on the University's new Winter Weather web page.

Chances are pretty good you’ll wake up on an Iowa winter morning to find there’s a foot of snow on the ground, the white stuff is still coming down, and the mercury in your thermometer has fallen way below zero. Local elementary and secondary school classes have been canceled.

How do you find out about University cancellations? Information is posted to the University's new web page for winter weather–related class and event cancellations (see pullout box below).

What's canceled?

In general, faculty, staff, and students should assume that the University continues to function despite inclement weather. In particular, the following University departments always will remain open and in operation: University Housing, Facilities Management, Public Safety, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, the University Hygienic Laboratory, and clinics in the College of Dentistry.

On those rare occasions when classes are canceled, the Office of University Relations makes a public announcement through the news media. The Internet has become a primary means of communicating such information, according to University spokesperson Steve Parrott, but University Relations also contacts the news media immediately. University Relations alerts all local media, including newspapers and the Associated Press.

Should you stay? Or should you go?

Employees and students who are concerned about the risk of trying to get to work or class during bad weather are encouraged to use their best judgment, according to University policy. Employees who stay home should be sure to call in and let their supervisor or coworkers know, and students may want to contact their professors to make arrangements to turn in assignments later or learn what was missed.

According to University policy, employees who lose work time due to weather extremes may arrange with a supervisor to make up the time during the same work week, use vacation time, or take the time as leave without pay. Employees covered by collective bargaining agreements may have different benefits.


University unveils winter weather information page

The University of Iowa Office of University Relations has launched a new web page that features notices about winter weather–related class and event cancellations, snow removal contacts, links to road conditions, safety tips, and other helpful information. A tab linking visitors directly to the page is found along the lower right row of the UI home page.

The Winter Weather Information page will be updated whenever severe winter weather strikes or is imminent or campus operations are altered because of the weather. Additionally, a banner will appear across the top of the UI homepage if and when the UI issues a weather-related Hawk Alert. Clicking the banner will also take visitors to the weather page.

Questions about the page may be directed to Wendy Brown in University Relations at


Is there a space in your parking lot?

For faculty, staff, and students who do drive to campus during winter storms, Parking Operations crews work day and night to keep University ramps and lots accessible.

"We can't guarantee that all lots will be plowed all the time—the crews that plow and shovel also are responsible for fixing broken gates and meters and other maintenance—but we work at it," says Jeff Rahn, manager of Parking Operations. "We lose space in lots when we have piles of snow, so we just ask that people try and park between the lines, if the lines are visible, and that they drive carefully."

Will Cambus run?

Many employees who drive into the University rely on Cambus service to transport them to and from their cars. Cambus manager Brian McClatchey says that even in inclement weather he tries to maintain bus service.

"We tell our drivers not to push it, and to operate safely," McClatchey says. "During bad weather we try to keep service as evenly spaced as possible to avoid long gaps between buses, rather than trying to stick to a schedule. We ask for people's patience and understanding—a bus will come eventually."


Are classes called off?

In most cases, the decision to cancel classes follows this formula: Charles Green, the director of Public Safety, makes a recommendation to the vice president for Student Services, who then makes a final decision after consultation with the UI provost and president. University Relations is then contacted in the event of cancellation.

There are no specific criteria for making a decision to curtail Cambus service or cancel classes, but factors such as impassable roads and downed telephone and power lines are considered.

The University canceled classes on Feb. 6, 2008, in response to a blast of winter weather that included significant snow accumulation paired with ice and strong winds. But this sort of cancellation is a rarity.

Occasionally, when the entire University is not in session, an individual college may cancel classes. That was the case at the beginning of 1999, when the College of Medicine canceled its Jan. 4 classes because of the New Year's weekend snowstorm.

Will we ever see the University call off classes in late April or early May when the forecast calls for sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70s? 'Tis a cancellation devoutly to be wished, but don't bet on it.


Slip-sliding away? Here’s the inside scoop on campus snow removal

When the weather outside gets frightful, Facilities Management staff get busy pushing, scooping, and sanding snow and ice on campus streets and sidewalks. After decades of confronting Iowa winters, they have it down to a science. Here’s a guide to snow removal processes and procedures to help you prepare for the next big snowstorm.

Landscape Services staff members begin the process of removing snow at 5 a.m. or earlier, with the goal of having most of the snow cleared from campus streets, sidewalks, steps, and other areas (including Oakdale) by 7:30 a.m.

Plows head onto campus from the Madison Street shop and move outward to their routes, so the areas near the Main Library will be plowed before the area around Van Allen Hall.

Facilities Management custodians shovel steps around entrances to their assigned buildings and provide weatherproof matting at building entrances to help trap the mess that comes in with the snow.

While the Facilities Management office oversees most of the snow and ice removal on campus, other offices are responsible for certain other areas, as follows: the City of Iowa City maintains east campus streets; Cambus staff take care of the Cambus shelters; Parking and Transportation takes care of the parking lots (except Oakdale); the UI Hospitals and Clinics grounds crew is responsible for the hospital area; and the athletics department is responsible for Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

If you have concerns about a specific area or an unsafe condition, call the Facilities Management Work Control Center at 319-335-5071.


Office of University Relations. Copyright The University of Iowa 2006. All rights reserved.