(WITH VIDEO) – As snowballs flew through the air and screams from students sledding echoed off the Curris Center walls, Murray was in a fight against an estimated 6 inches of snow, below freezing temperatures, ice and rain, according to the National Weather Service.
Throughout the five consecutive snow days announced by the University, a winter storm warning, a winter storm watch, a statewide emergency, a winter weather advisory and a wind chill advisory were declared because of the record amount of snowfall and temperatures across the commonwealth. In some cities like Eddyville, Ky., and Princeton, Ky., snowfall totaled up to 13 inches.
On Monday, Gov. Steve Beshear declared a statewide emergency to ensure local officials have access to state resources for public safety and recovery efforts.
“By declaring a state of emergency for the entire state, we can deploy any needed state assistance, including National Guard troops if necessary, without delay,” Beshear said.
Beshear added that some good news about Monday’s snow was that it was light and powdery, which prevented accumulation on power lines and tree limbs.
However, the snow and a layer of ice still covered many Murray streets, including those close to campus, such as Farmer Avenue.
With Monday’s snowfall causing problems locally and statewide, the National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky., predicted another 1 to 3 inches of snow to fall Wednesday in western Kentucky and a drop in temperatures reaching as cold as 20 below zero with wind chill.
With such low temperatures, threat of frostbite and hypothermia are possible within 30 minutes of exposure. However, Thursday’s closure was due to a high risk of the Tennessee Valley Authority requiring the University to shut down power.
In an email from President Bob Davies, he said the University is prepared in case of a shutdown.
“Be assured, if we are required to curtail power to the campus from the TVA, we are ready,” Davies said. “We have backup generators in place for all of the residential colleges/halls and for the facilities essential to ensure the safety and service of our residential students.”
The University’s 5 Minute Response, or 5MR, agreement with TVA requires the University to shut down 11,500 kilowatts of power within a five minute’s notice from TVA. The University’s last shutdown was on Jan. 6, 2014, and following the shutdown, nearly 40 percent of buildings were damaged by freezing and bursting pipes.
If Murray State were to not comply with TVA, the University would be charged $690,000. However, since the University has complied since the contract was signed in 2010, TVA has given the University $1.3 million in credits.
Following the snow and temperatures, the weather service predicted additional snow to fall Friday and for the weather to transition into 1 to 3 inches of rain Saturday, which could lead to possible flash flooding.
However, the snow days were well received by some students who took advantage of the break from classes.
With the campus closures extending throughout the week to Friday, students had free time to enjoy the snow by sledding, having snowball fights and simply staying inside.
Dakota Fields, graduate student from Lexington, Ky., celebrated on the third day of closures by inviting students via Twitter to a snowball fight on the intramural fields.
He said he tweeted the idea of a snowball fight as a joke, but after some serious inquiries by friends, he decided to go through with the idea.
While the snowball fight was not as massive as he hoped, he said it was still worth it to have fun and relieve some stress.
“There were probably about 40 people,” he said. “But no one was bored and they had fun. Everyone was taking pictures and selfies. We’re only six weeks into the semester, but I think this was helpful in letting go of all your worries and stress. All you’re worried about is whether you’re going to get hit or not.”
Editor’s Note: This story was written on Thursday, Feb. 19. Some details may have changed.
Story by Mary Bradley, Editor-in-Chief