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Boston Weather: 69.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

Snowfall Rolls Over MIT

Photo by Thomas R. Karlo
MacGregor House residents Benjamin K. Lee '99 and Jason E. Miller '98 send friend James R. Morgan '98 head over heels on Briggs Field Tuesday. Having no classes, students filled the field and enjoyed the deep snow and bright sun.

By Frank Dabek
associate news editor

Mother Nature played a huge practical joke on the Boston area Tuesday when the city was hit by the third largest blizzard in its history. The storm resulted in accumulations of over two feet, enough to cause the first regular-term closing at the Institute in over 10 years and wreak havoc on the J. B. Carr Indoor Tennis Center and trees on campus.

"It wasn't a very difficult decision," said Vice President for Human Resources Joan F. Rice, who made the choice to close MIT on Tuesday. "I decided that it was getting too difficult for people to get around."

Rice bases her decision to close on whether or not students and faculty are "able to get here," she said. She considers the state of roads, and parking lots, as well as the status of Lincoln Laboratory.

When Rice made the decision on Tuesday, "Cambridge roads were not cleared at all" and crews at MIT had not been able to keep up with the storm in clearing parking lots.

Tennis bubble collapses

Among the most serious instances of damage to campus was the collapse of the tennis bubble. Daniel J. Martin, assistant department head for facilities and operations, said that the damage to the dome has not been fully assessed.

A new dome had already been ordered prior to the storm, Martin said. "If there is significant damage we'll bring the new bubble in."

MIT closed for the day during Independent Activities Period last year, but closing during the term is a rare occurrence. "Occasionally, we let people go early" if weather threatens, she said. The last time the Institute closed during the term was in September 1985 because of Hurricane Gloria.

Closing is a last resort, Rice said. "We try to keep [MIT] open. We should be here for" the students, she said.

Students enjoy break

While students were able to stay at home, employees designated as "essential" reported for work on Tuesday, Rice said. Essential personnel include the snow clearing teams, some network consultants, and some staff in the medical department.

Administrators, however, stayed at home. "I can't think who on the administrative group would be considered essential," Rice said.

Students enjoyed the break from classes.

Among studying and working, John Kymissis '98 said he built a snowman in Briggs Field. The activity "definitely was the most fun" of the day.

Jessica L. Neu G said she braved the elements to make a difficult trek to the grocery store.

Joey Chang '97 said, "For once I didn't do any work, I just sat there."

Marj Rosenthal '98 was a bit more active. As a member of the women's lacrosse team, she shoveled the field yesterday with the rest of her team in order to hold practice.

Snow incapacitates state

The effects of this blizzard were felt far beyond MIT. As late as Wednesday, 200,000 people in the region were without electricity. Thousands more were without heat.

In addition, three deaths were blamed on the storm as well as several fires.

The slow performance of road clearing crews drew fire from Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, and the closing of some MBTA lines made morning commutes even more hectic.

Inland, the situation was even worse. In western Massachusetts, over three feet of snow fell as a result of the storm.