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Monday, February 17, 2020 — Houston, TX 74°

Classes canceled due to inclement weather, Tropical Depression Imelda


Anna Ta/Thresher

By Savannah Kuchar     9/19/19 2:11pm

With a flash flood warning from Tropical Depression Imelda over Harris County until 7 p.m. today, Rice Crisis Management issued multiple updates to students, initially warning them to stay safe in the storm conditions and ultimately canceling classes as of 1:33 p.m. Another alert was sent shortly after adding that all campus events have also been canceled for the day.

Justin Bishop, a Brown College senior, commented on the Rice Thresher’s Facebook update on Rice’s earlier decision to not cancel classes.

“The fact that Rice told faculty, staff and students that it was safe to come to campus and have class, while it is flooding and against the advice of county officials is not only irresponsible of the crisis management team, but also unacceptable,” Bishop wrote. “We shouldn’t let this slide.”

Morgan Bates, a Wiess College sophomore, said that she lives off-campus and which made it difficult for her to find a way back home with the delay in canceling classes.

“I came to class at 9:25 [a.m.] and so I was already on campus so it just feels like they should have known I was going to be stuck here all day in an unsafe situation,” Bates said.  “Especially because West Lot isn’t draining super well and now our cars are here on-campus.”

Marin Beal, another off-campus student, said she felt like the administration did not take into account the difficulties of off-campus students when making their decisions.

“Everyone [that has] on-campus [housing] are in their rooms safely and we’re all trying to figure out if it’s even safe to walk home,” Beal, a sophomore at Wiess, said. “I know that they take into account faculty driving here but I don’t think they really think about off-campus students.”

Shannon Raffetto, an associate director at the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, commented on a Thresher Facebook post that the timing of the cancellation was “unfortunate for all the faculty and staff already on campus and unsure when it'll be safe to leave.”

According to Crisis Management, the Crisis Management Advisory Committee had a conference call at 4:30 a.m. to discuss campus closures. In an initial Rice Alert sent out at 4:58 a.m., Crisis Management announced that campus would continue operating normally today, but advised students to use caution on the roads if they were driving from off-campus housing. 

“[The early morning conference] is standard practice for the university so we can have the most up-to-date information prior to making a decision,” Jerusha Kasch, director of institutional crisis management, said. 

At 11:53 a.m., another Rice Alert was sent out notifying students about the flash flood warning for Harris County. The alert said that flood gates were being installed in several buildings on campus. 

“All those who are off campus should not travel until the storm water has drained,” the email said. “Please communicate any absences to your faculty advisor, magister or supervisor. We are expecting four to eight additional inches of rain in the next few hours. Those who are on campus should stay on campus until the water recedes.”

Interim Provost Seiichi Matsuda said in a Rice Alert at 12:01 p.m. that the city of Houston is asking all residents to stay put and avoid any traveling. At the time, Matsuda said classes would continue as scheduled for students who are on campus.

“Major flooding is affecting much of the area,” Matsuda wrote. “Please stay off the roads and do not attempt to drive to campus.”

Willy’s Pub, Rice Coffeehouse, Rice Bikes, and East West Tea were also closed for the day.

In an alert at 2:17 p.m., the crisis management group said that students and faculty who live off-campus and cannot find a way home should call 713-348-2232. The Thresher called the provided number and was directed to a voicemail. 

The latest alert said that the shelter in place has been lifted and advised students to return to their college.  According to an email from Dean Gorman, off-campus students who are unable to leave can find dinner and somewhere to stay the night at their home colleges.

“For our off campus students, I want to encourage you to return to your home college until conditions are safe to drive home,” Gorman wrote. “If the storm persists into the evening, you are welcome to sleep on campus ⁠— please coordinate with your friends or college magisters to find a space as needed.  In addition, for those without a meal plan, you are welcome to eat in the serveries today.”

The story has been updated at 9/19/19 at 4:30 p.m. with additional quotes and information from Gorman. 

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