MIT was closed yesterday due to considerations for Hurricane Sandy. There were no classes, and all non-essential personnel were off work for the three shifts of the day. While most of MIT Medical was closed, Urgent Care remained open.
McCormick and Baker Dining were open with limited service yesterday evening, though Simmons Late Night was closed. The rest of the dining halls functioned as usual.
The MBTA shut down service at 2 p.m. Monday, and all U.S. markets closed in preparation for the storm. This was the first market-wide shutdown since September 2001. Markets will remain closed today, though the MBTA is still planning to operate as of this writing.
The Tech has compiled a Sandy FAQ which can be found at http://techblogs.mit.edu/news/2012/10/hurricane-sandy-faq-how-not-to-get-eaten-by-your-labmate.
The Institute announced its closing at 8:15 p.m. Sunday through http://emergency.mit.net, MIT’s website for communicating campus emergencies. Alerts were sent to cell phones around 8:30 p.m. through the MIT Alert system, and a campus-wide email was sent at 8:34 p.m.
Hurricane Sandy brought winds of nearly 65 miles an hour to Massachusetts Monday afternoon, with the Green Building weather station monitoring gusts peaking at 40 mph. There was severe flooding in New Jersey, as well of pockets of flooding throughout Massachusetts. Sandy is the second largest Atlantic storm in the past 24 years (which is how long hurricane data has been tracked), having broken Hurricane Lili’s record from 1996. By press time Monday evening, over 350,000 homes in Massachusetts had lost power, and more blackouts are expected as the storm progresses.
The worst of the storm hit Massachusetts Monday afternoon — though Boston experienced only the outskirts of the storm. Sandy made landfall in New Jersey around 8:00 p.m. Monday, and as of this writing has been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone. Rain will continue throughout Wednesday afternoon.
MIT will be open today, the Institute announced at 9:50 p.m. Monday through the emergency website, though it will have a delayed starting time of 9 a.m..
Preparations for Sandy
MIT took a number of steps to prepare for the storm. Residents in all dormitories were urged to keep a light source handy and to close their windows to prevent rain and wind damage. Jason Doucette, house manager of Next House, said in an email to the dorm that towels were available to students to help block their windows in case of leakage.
Roof drains and external drains of residence halls were cleaned of leaves to help prevent flooding, and water vacuums and sump pumps around campus were tested. MIT Dining received a number of large food deliveries Monday in case the storm caused transportation issues or food shortages. LaVerde’s and Café Spice remained open Monday (Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway, and Anna’s Taqueria were only open for the morning), though the rest of the restaurants in W20 were closed. The menu at LaVerde’s was limited, and a number of items on the grill were not available.
Facilities around MIT, including the Zesiger Center, were closed for the day. In an email to the athletics staff, Julie Soriero — director of athletics, physical education, and recreation — announced that if MIT closes, “all of our buildings, programs, practices, and PE classes will be cancelled.”
How do you prepare for a hurricane?
Students were encouraged to pack loose items and move furniture away from windows — all of which should be closed and locked. Any items in outdoor areas should be brought indoors, and electronic devices should be unplugged. Cell phones should be charged before the storm. People should stay inside and be aware that the power might go out. While all dormitories have emergency generators for powering the fire alarms and hallway/exit lighting, bedrooms and apartments will lose power. In an email to all housemasters, Dennis Collins, director of residential life for capital renewal and construction, warned that if Massachusetts lost power, MIT’s cogeneration plant would initially go down, activating the emergency generators. While the cogeneration plant should be able to restart within a few hours, those in the northwest area of campus who do not rely on the cogeneration plant may be on emergency power for a longer time.
“Power on campus is supplied by the Co-Gen plant,” said Kirk D. Kolenbrander, vice president and secretary of the MIT Corporation. “It’s quite reliable.”
Collins’ email also included other tips for weathering Sandy, such as things to include in a hurricane preparation kit (“useful items such as non-perishable food items and snacks, juices, soft drinks, bottled water, manual can opener, change of clothing, sturdy shoes, portable radio, first-aid kit, batteries, flashlight, eating utensils and containers for holding water. Refill prescription medicines,” the email read). He also noted that refrigerators without power can safely hold food for up to 12 hours if they are opened infrequently.
Sandy in Boston
MIT was not the only school in the Boston area to close for the day. All public schools in the Boston metropolitan area were closed, and a number of other colleges — including Harvard University, Boston University, Babson College, Wellesley College, and Northeastern University — shut operations down on Monday in preparation for Sandy. Public schools should be open today.
In a press conference Sunday afternoon, Governor Deval Patrick requested schools to close and for Bay Staters to stay off the roads during Sandy.
Federal aid is now supplementing local efforts, as President Barack Obama signed an emergency declaration for Massachusetts Sunday afternoon.
Logan Airport remains open, though the reliability of individual airlines will vary. Danny Levy, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Port Authority, suggested that travelers “check with airlines before venturing to the airport,” according to The Boston Globe.
Hurricane Sandy has been touted as the second “Perfect Storm” after the deadly storm of 1991, which inspired the 2000 film of the same name starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg. While the prior conditions for the storms are similar, they are not the same, and Sandy is not predicted to be as damaging.
Students who have problems with leaks or other storm-related issues should contact MIT Facilities at 617-253-1500. While MIT has increased the number of mechanics on shift for the next few days, those making calls should expect delays. More information about Hurricane Sandy can be found at the NOAA’s website at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/.