UO’s inclement weather process is a hot topic in cold temps

Snow on campus

The first below-freezing mornings and a return to regular rain are here. Winter is on its way, and the National Weather Service predicts cooler-than-average temperatures for the Northwest this season.

University of Oregon employees and students need to be ready for sudden hazardous weather at any time from November through March. A critical part of winter preparation is knowing how the UO makes closure and delay decisions, and how the university shares information about inclement weather and its effects.

If getting around campus is safe and most employees and students have ways to get safely to campus, then the UO will most likely operate normally. When the UO’s incident management team and administrators determine that campus is not safe, or when local conditions are extremely severe around campus, the UO can choose from three types of closures:

  • Delayed opening: Classes and events are canceled and all nonessential administrative and academic activities are suspended at the Eugene campus in the morning hours of normal operations.
  • Early closure: Classes and events are canceled and all nonessential administrative and academic activities are suspended at the Eugene campus in the afternoon or evening hours of normal operations.
  • Full closure: All classes and events are canceled and all university offices and departments are closed except select emergency and essential services.

Some research, facilities and housing operations will always operate, and employees who have been designated as essential — if unsure, people should ask their supervisors — will be expected to work if they can do so safely. But it is understood that not everyone may be able to travel to campus due to inclement weather, even if the UO is open.

Members of the campus community are expected to use their best judgment in assessing the risk of coming to campus, based on individual circumstances and in consultation with supervisors or instructors. UO leaders ask instructors and supervisors to be flexible in working with people who choose not to come for their own safety.

Under the UO’s comprehensive weather monitoring and decision-making protocol, Safety and Risk Services staff work with the National Weather Service to get early weather warnings. The UO’s incident management team monitors local conditions and checks with other local agencies like the cities of Eugene and Springfield, Lane Transit District, the Oregon Department of Transportation and local school districts.

Campus staff also check road and path conditions and report to the incident management team, whose leaders convene with UO administrators to decide whether to operate normally, delay opening, close early or close fully.

The main variables in the decision are: Is campus safe, are the UO-designated winter weather roadways and paths navigable, are buildings safe to enter, are there hazards like falling trees and do buildings have power, water and heat? Also, what is happening in the community? Are people being told to stay home? Is LTD operating?

Being a residential and research campus, the UO has many functions that go on regardless of weather. Other factors that tilt toward remaining open:

  • Different parts of the Eugene-Springfield area vary widely in how snow and ice affect them. Some streets in the hills may be impassable while at the same time lower areas are perfectly navigable.
  • About 4,000 students live on campus, and many others live within walking distance.
  • Delays and closures have a negative “domino effect” on academic and research calendars.

The UO suggests several resources employees and students can use to be aware, prepared and resilient in hazardous weather: