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Boston Weather: 33.0°F | A Few Clouds

Record Snowfall Closes MIT, Pops Bubble

By Beckett W. Sterner


Setting the record for the greatest snowfall in Boston since 1893, the storm this President’s Day weekend dropped 27.5 inches and caused MIT to close for the first time in six years.

The James B. Carr Tennis Center collapsed, as it had the previous time MIT closed for snow, on April 1, 1997.

Although Gov. Mitt Romney did not declare the storm a state emergency, MIT decided to close mainly because of the weather predictions Monday night that the storm would continue into Tuesday afternoon, said Laura Avakian, MIT’s vice president for human resources.

In the meantime, many students seized the prospect of a four-day weekend to celebrate in the snow Monday night.

Snow bursts heated tennis bubble

One deflating consequence of the snowstorm here at MIT was the collapse of the Tennis Center -- or “bubble” -- covering the heated tennis courts on the athletic fields.

Norman H. Magnuson Jr. of the facilities department said that the bubble had collapsed because snow, melted by the heated air on the inside, had pooled on top of the fabric, making a “dimple” by pushing inward and ultimately causing the fabric to tear.

“In a perfect world, what is supposed to happen is that the snow should slide off of it,” he said, but in this case there was simply “too much snow.” He said that the manufacturer has been notified and should come next week to patch the hole.

Snow forecast was factor for MIT

Avakian, describing why MIT decided to close, said that on Monday night it seemed “the sheer amount of snow was going to make it difficult” for faculty, staff and students to make it to campus safely. Another concern, she said, was that there were “some forecasts that [the snow] would last through the day,” making it harder to keep the roads clear.

The streets of Boston were quiet enough, said Shang C. Chou ’04, that during the storm, students were able to run outside and play snow football in the middle of Beacon Street, although he personally decided a problem set was more important.

In the end, it was President Charles M. Vest who made the decision for the snow day, while stuck in a Holiday Inn in Washington, D.C., after the cancellation of a press conference planned to announce MIT’s filing of a brief supporting the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policy before the Supreme Court.

Storm shuts down Boston, MIT

While last weekend’s storm beat the last truly terrible blizzard in 1978 based on the amount of snowfall, it lacked the high winds and flooding that made the ’78 storm so damaging. In fact, as reported by the Boston Globe, the storm did not even have the intensity to qualify as a blizzard.

Nonetheless, the 27.5 inches that fell cost the city about $2 million dollars and between $7 and $8 million statewide. There was only one death reported from the storm, involving a man and snowblower breaking through a grating in the ground outside Massachusetts General Hospital.