Members of the Lehigh Rowing team attack a fellow rower with snowballs on Saturday. Winter storm Jonas covered Lehigh's campus in more than a foot of snow. (Kelly McCoy/B&W Staff)

Blizzard causes traffic, transportation, snow removal issues

Two men from A Cut Above Lawn Care and Landscape work to clear piles of snow near Maginess Hall on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. The snowstorm left large piles of snow after the initial cleanup efforts were completed. (Tanner Buss/B&W Staff)

Two men from A Cut Above Lawn Care and Landscape work to clear piles of snow near Maginess Hall on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. The snowstorm left large piles of snow after the initial cleanup efforts were completed. (Tanner Buss/B&W Staff)

The blizzard on Jan. 23 broke all-time snow records in several cities, and in Bethlehem, caused what senior computing consultant Kathy Fredericks called a “traffic nightmare on South Side.”

It takes Fredericks 15 minutes to drive home, but it took her an hour to drive home on Jan. 26, two days after the snowstorm hit. Many of her co-workers and students experienced the same traffic jam while driving home on their usual routes from campus.

“As soon as I got home, I emailed the Bethlehem Police Department and my subject line was basically ‘Where were you tonight?’” Fredericks said. “The South Side really needed them for traffic control.”

According to Fredericks, drivers were pulling out into intersections and blocking the flow of traffic. Hardly any police were present to guide the vehicles, causing major traffic jams along the tiny streets running through South Bethlehem, she said. She thought that violence could have possibly ensued if drivers became frustrated.

Although Bethlehem is not involved in the clearing of private campuses such as Lehigh, the university’s facility services help as much as they can to make the areas surrounding campus safe for the Lehigh community.

“The city of Bethlehem is responsible for the city streets,” Provost Patrick Farrell said. “I assume that they are doing they best they can, and we sometimes wonder if the South Side is getting the proper attention. We do plow some of the city streets around us.”

The snow removal process caused travel delays around campus and around the country.

Farrell said that because the snowstorm hit days right before the semester began, he had to cancel the first day of classes to accommodate those traveling back to campus. Students traveling long distances had a difficult time getting back to campus both the night before and the days following the storm.

Dave Morrison, ’18, drove from Tennessee to Lehigh at night the day before the storm to avoid travel delays and reach Lehigh safely.

Once Morrison arrived in Harrisburg, he was 14 hours into his trip, and it had been snowing in Pennsylvania for about 4 hours. He lost control, hit a guardrail and totaled his car.

“As someone who is driving far away from home, it would have been really nice if I had known that Monday was cancelled before I left because then I wouldn’t have tried to make it through the snow,” Morrison said. “It was good that they said not to drive on Saturday because anyone who would have tried that would have been done, but I thought that I would have been able to go on Friday when I definitely couldn’t.”

While those traveling to campus had difficulty arriving, those on campus worried about their vehicles on campus.

Parking Services Assistant Manager Brett Johnson said in an email that the standard procedure for snow removal is to clear the faculty and staff parking spots first. As a result, some of the other parking lots were not completely cleared until almost a week later, and sometimes students were not allowed to freely drive on and off campus.

Because of magnitude of the storm, the Lehigh community received multiple updates a day about the impending storm and then snow removal. Bethlehem updated those in the area about what days and times the streets would be plowed, but that schedule was not strictly followed. Lehigh sent out continuous updates with information about when to arrive at school, when school was cancelled and how to stay safe on campus.

“I didn’t want to make people do unwise things, and hopefully they judged for themselves if missing a day of class was worth putting their lives at risk,” Farrell said.

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