Extreme winter weather temperatures lead to University closure


Economics senior Jackson Stephenson scrapes ice off his windshield Tuesday night in the Hancock Center parking lot. The University of Texas and much of the city of Austin closed down due to cold weather.

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

The first day of class and all University events were canceled due to extreme winter weather conditions. Students spent the canceled class day sleeping in and watching the “snow."

Grace Allen, economics and international relations sophomore, said she has stayed bundled up in her dorm for most of the day but went outside briefly to throw snow and ice into the air.

“I thought this ‘snow day’ was the perfect way to start classes, honestly,” Allen said. “Even though it didn’t snow as much as I wanted it to, I’m glad UT isn’t making people drive on the icy roads.”

The last time the University closed for winter conditions was Jan. 28, 2014, and the last time the University delayed start due to winter conditions was Dec. 8, 2017.

Unlike Allen who grew up in Texas and has not experienced much snow, Rachel Nguyen, human development and family sciences senior, visits New York every winter and is used to icier conditions. Nguyen said she stayed inside all day with the heater on.

“I think the ‘snow day’ and classes being cancelled was exactly what I needed,” Nguyen said. “I know that we just had a month off for winter break, but I think that UT made the right decision to cancel classes.”

Temperatures quickly dropped into the 30s Monday night around 10 p.m. as the cold front came through, with freezing temperatures beginning around 1 a.m. Tuesday and remaining in the mid to upper 20s throughout the day. Hazardous road conditions developed early Tuesday morning as ice-covered roads and bridges led local law enforcement to advise people to stay off roadways.

The freezing temperatures are likely to persist through part of Wednesday, UT’s chief meteorologist Troy Kimmel predicted.

“I advise people to bundle up and to use extra caution when you’re walking and driving,” Kimmel said.

Laurie Lentz, communications manager for University Planning, Energy and Facilities, said the University sanded the roads and bridges on campus after ice appeared. Landscape Services also used an environmentally sensitive ice melt product on sidewalks and shut off all irrigation on campus so as not to contribute to the icy conditions. Campus shuttle buses were also out of service for the day.

Emily Dsida grew up in Massachusetts and has experienced freezing conditions many times. Dsida said she advises students, staff and faculty to wear shoes with decent tread to avoid slipping on ice and wear many layers.

“One of the biggest safety hazards when you’re dealing with cold weather is black ice, which is very thin and hard to see,” said Dsida, a radio-television-film junior. “Whether you’re driving, walking or biking around campus, it’s important to go slower than you normally would to avoid slipping or losing control of your vehicle. I know everyone is in a hurry to get to class or work, but it’s not worth the risk.”

The decision to close or delay the University is ultimately up to University President Gregory Fenves with consideration from the Texas Department of Transportation, local law enforcement, meteorologists and other officials about road conditions and weather forecasts. Students, faculty and staff were notified of the University’s closure through a UT Safety Alert email at 6:45 p.m. Monday.