Recovering from a Record Breaker

February 12, 2010

GW community braves the storm to help dig out the campus and neighbors—and beat Georgetown in a massive snowball fight.

The winter of 2009-2010 will go down in the record books for the most snowfall in the District, edging past the 1898-1899 record of 54.4 inches. Those historic numbers were enough to cancel four days of classes at GW but could hardly keep members of the University community holed up.

More than 100 members of GW’s operations team, some of whom spent the night on campus, braved knee-deep snow and arctic winds to log hundreds of hours throughout the week shoveling roads, sidewalks, stairs, ramps, entrances and pathways.

It wasn’t just the operations crew who donned snow shovels. Snowed-in neighbors got a helping hand from GW students on Feb. 11 in the “Foggy Bottom Dig Out.” Students cleared paths and sidewalks in front of local homes and the GW Hospital, shoveled out cars and helped shop for elderly residents. Neighbors were notified of the free service via e-mail, and many took advantage of the offer.

“We shoveled alleyways and cut through the ice that had formed on sidewalks, which was becoming a hazard for many of the elderly residents,” says Alison McDougal, vice president of community affairs for the GW Student Association, which sponsored the program.

According to Ms. McDougal, grateful residents offered students “everything from water to pancake dinners.” The Student Association received numerous e-mails from residents thanking students for their help, and neighborhood retailer Natural Body Spa & Shoppe rewarded students’ altruism with discounted deep tissue massages.

“It is a unique group that will offer its free time on a snow day to help out the community and serve our neighbors,” she says. “It really says a lot about the kindness and selflessness of GW students.”

President Knapp pitches in

“How did you find out GW is closed tomorrow?” tweeted Chris Brooks on Feb. 10. “From President Knapp himself at the GW vs. Georgetown snowball fight!”

On Wednesday, GW President Steven Knapp and his wife, Diane, joined more than 200 GW students in a snowball fight against students from Georgetown University. The schools squared off in Rose Park at 26th and O streets, NW. Writing on Vox Populi, the staff blog of the Georgetown Voice, Eric Pilch observed that the fight “may have been a lot of fun,” but “in terms of winners and losers, Georgetown was clearly the latter.”

The fight, which had its own Facebook page, was planned on Twitter by GW senior Kyle Boyer (@KyleBoyer). At the event, Dr. Knapp announced that GW would be closed on Feb. 11, spurring a blizzard of reactions on Facebook and Twitter. The fight was mentioned by The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Washington City Paper, NBC, CNN and U.S. News & World Report.

Snow angels

Although classes were canceled and most offices at the University remained closed during the major storms, students found extended hours of operations at GW’s dining services at the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses.

GW’s Marvin Center was open each day, and there were planned activities at the Student Activities Center. Events at the center, dubbed “Warm Zones,” included bowling and shuffleboard tournaments, movie marathons, free food and Nintendo Wii challenges. A GW men’s basketball game took place as scheduled on Feb. 6, but the women’s game scheduled to take place on Feb. 10 was postponed due to blizzard conditions.

The GW Police Department maintained full operations throughout the week, including regular patrols, call responses and additional campus support. The University’s escort service, 4-RIDE, provided van service when possible, and switched to walking escorts when the streets were deemed too dangerous for driving.

EMeRG, the student-run emergency medical service, also kept normal hours during the storms. The Vern Express, which operates between the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses, provided daily transportation, with the exception of the height of the inclement weather on Feb. 10.

In a letter to the GW community, Dr. Knapp thanked those involved in ensuring the University’s continued operations. “Despite these challenges, many people have worked hard to keep the university operating. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to them and to all who have helped to ensure the well-being of our students and the rest of our university community,” he wrote.

The university also announced that classes will be made up April 27 through May 1.

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