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Dispatches from the Northeastern Front

in Campus Journal by

This anonymous diary recounting the Great Winter-But-Actually-Spring-Spring-Is-A-Lie Storms of 2018 was found buried by the Purple Tree. Its author appears to have melted into a nearby puddle of tears and frost.

March 1:

Winter storm Riley draws closer, as I stock up on bare necessities — spaghetti, cat videos, wooly socks, chocolate. Just one day of snow and it will be springtime! Flowers blooming. Goodbye furry boots and puffy coats. Hello pollen allergies.

March 2:

3:30 PM: Campus plunged in darkness. Screams, shouts all around. Students weeping over their dead chargers. Mad dash to Sharples, which has unexpectedly become a beacon of light. Internet not dead yet — hope remains.

4:00 PM: Power back on. Hallelujah! The midterms shall be passed, papers submitted. Start thinking about how to spin the outage into a request for an extension.

4:45 PM: Power back out. Despair and disappointment. An email is sent. Hopefully there will not have to be any more. It is the end of Internet. Good-bye eduroam, Moodle. Students fleeing into the Ville and Barn for power.

5:38 PM: “The wind is bringing down branches and the occasional tree” – Ralph Thayer, Director of Maintenance. Rumors abound of a mysterious Generator, which will restore power to campus and bring hope and light to us all. Students seeking refuge in Sharples, crowding outlets with laptop chargers.

6:00 PM: Appearance of the first storm-related memes.

9:30 PM: Power outage in the Barn, residential neighborhoods, the Ville. I realize Swarthmore is so small it makes little difference whether the lights are out or not.

March 3:

10:00 AM: Word of The Generator has spread. From all across Swarthmore, weary inhabitants trek to McCabe for light and warmth. Families, senior citizens, spread all over the library. I hide in the bathroom so my professor cannot spot me in sweatpants and snow boots, eating chips.

10:00 PM: Power not restored in surrounding neighborhoods. Emergency trip to Giant to buy canned food and oranges. Already, a sickly smell is emanating from the refrigerator. 2 calls to P.E.C.O., hoping there will be no need for a third.

March 4:

12:00 PM: 5th call to P.E.C.O. Power supposed to have been restored yesterday. Their website is a lie. Are my toes frostbitten? Spending as much time as possible on campus. Giant tree fallen behind Willets, which actually improves the view somewhat. Another storm is coming. This is getting repetitive.

8:30 PM: An elusive creature, the Liz Braun, has emerged from its lair to send yet another email informing students of power outage. Thank god for the emails, or we never would have guessed.

11:00 PM: Does Liz Braun know sending emails saying the storm exists is not helping? Cruel professors show zero intention of cancelling classes.

March 7:

1:30 PM: Winter Storm Quinn hits Swarthmore. I get lost walking from Lang Center to Kohlberg and end up crying in the middle of the street. Arrive late to class and dump so much snow on the floor professor sent me out to dry off. P.E.C.O. claims power was fixed in the Barn.

5:00 PM: P.E.C.O. lied. Joyful revelation that I am unable to flip a switch on a breaker.  Refugees from the Barn start fleeing into emergency on-campus housing thanks to efficient, well-organized residents who are also sick of freezing in dark apartments. Thank God also for E.V.S., Sharples workers, and all essential staff that keep the campus running.

March 8:

8:00 AM: I hear all the hallway freshmen screaming and loudly getting ready. This and communal showers remind me of why I moved off campus. Huddle under borrowed blanket and watch “Arthur” to feel better.

9:00 AM: “Arthur” episode where there is a winter storm and everyone loses power. I start blubbering and crying. 9th call to P.E.C.O. goes terribly because “Ma’am we can’t hear you you have to stop sniffing and calm down and speak in a normal voice.”

11:00 AM: Unsympathetic family, safely hidden in warm California, finds this all hilarious.

5:00 PM: In one’s darkest hour, one can still find some irony in the world. For example, the fact that loudly “eco-conscious” students have no qualms leaving lights on and cranking up heating and air conditioning despite risk of overheating generator. Also, it’s really hard to pack by phone light.

March 10:

POWER RESTORED ALL OVER SWARTHMORE. I no longer care because I am out of here. Will spend a week listening to parents tell me that this why going to Berkeley would have been smarter.

March 13:

11:00 AM: Winter storm whatever hits the East Coast yet again and back home I am sublimely indifferent. The lovely hum of the refrigerator is music to my ears. Hot showers. Removing warm sheets from the dryer. Watching TV. May I never take electronics for granted again. Have learned a beautiful lesson about saving energy and the environment.

3:00 PM: Accidentally leave refrigerator door open and TV on for half an hour. Still, it’s the thought that counts.

March 20:

6:00 PM: Which is worse: facing the fourth winter storm in a month or Liz Braun sending emails about said storm?

March 21:

This joke is getting very old. Slipping on ice and landing on one’s ass has lost any charm it ever possessed.

April Whatever Who Cares at This Point All I Know is it’s Sure as Hell Not Actually Spring:

The bells are ringing.

Far across campus from the abandoned towers of Clothier, I hear bells ringing. But it must be merely my frostbitten, weary imagination. I did not think the trumpets of the Apocalypse would sound like this. I am melting. Cold. Snowy. Snot.

Winter Storm Riley wreaks havoc on and off campus

in News by

Students were caught by surprise on Friday when a nor’easter tore through the region. The snowstorm left the campus and Ville without power for several days and did significant damage to the arboretum.

Winter Storm Riley caused outages all along the East Coast. PECO, the electric company that services most of southeastern Pennsylvania including Swarthmore, was reporting more than 850,000 outages. SEPTA was completely shut down from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning, and roads were covered in snow and tree branches.

The power went out at around 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon. Director of Maintenance Ralph Thayer sent out increasingly frequent email dispatches, including one email urging students to avoid taking elevators due to reported outages.

Sharples was the only building on campus with power during the storm. Students crowded into all rooms of the dining hall, many jockeying to get a spot at one of the few power outlets. Some students even brought a TV to Sharples and played Super Smash Bros.

“It was loud,” said Malini Kohli ’20. “It was a lot of people together …  It was cool.”

Sharples stayed open until 10:30 p.m., with staff from Essie Mae’s taking over for the later hours. Beth Klein, a Sharples employee, remembered the environment in Sharples fondly.

“That was a really cool night,” Klein said. “It wasn’t like I felt like I had to sit here and swipe cards, like monotonously boring. I felt like we’re all here together in this. I felt like part of a team.”

Though Klein’s house had lost power and she had to brave a treacherous drive home, she found enjoyment in the experience.

“I could have looked at it as, ‘Oh my God, this sucks and I’m nervous to drive,’ but I looked at it as an adventure the whole night,” Klein said.  “I’m a people person, so I was looking around, seeing what people were doing. They were playing cards. I like that better than before, [when] I’d be stressed with anxiety just sitting here doing the same thing over and over.”

Klein felt that the power outage was a powerful bonding experience for students and staff alike.

“I could see why everybody bonded last night. We just worked it out all together,” she said.

The maintenance department rushed to get a rental generator on campus. They restored power on campus via the generator late on Friday night.

Although the snow had completely melted by Saturday afternoon, the storm’s aftermath was felt throughout campus.

The wind tore down several trees around campus, including the massive Class of 1876 bur oak near Willets. Josh Coceano, a horticulturist at the Scott Arboretum, expressed sorrow when talking about the class tree, describing it as his favorite.

Coceano said that he hoped the tree would be cleared by later this week. He also encouraged students to stay out of the Crum, where there are several downed trees.

Veronica Douglan ’19, who works as an assistant at the Scott Arboretum, was deeply emotional about the damage inflicted by the storm.

“I noticed that the one in front of Ashton [House] that was just huge and just went all the way across the road,” she said. “I started feeling really sad because [the fallen trees] are old. I don’t think I would feel sad if a short tree fell or a skinny tree, but the really fat ones that literally dedicated their entire lives to just living, just falling because of the stupid wind, it kind of pissed me off and made me sad … Now they’re never gonna grow back. They’re gone forever.”

Many houses and businesses in Swarthmore borough had no power for most of the weekend. The Swarthmore Co-Op was hit particularly hard by the outage.

“On Friday night at about 7:30 or so, in the middle of that storm we had, the power went out here in Swarthmore and we did not have power restored here until 5:30 on Saturday evening, which is about 22 hours without refrigeration,” Co-Op Manager Mike Litka said. “And with that being said, there’s health code rules and regulations about how long food can be kept out of a temperature range. Regretfully, because of the power outage we had to dispose of our perishable good inventory.”

On Sunday, the Co-Op Facebook page put out a call to community members asking for help cleaning out perishable goods.

As a community owned business, any help you could provide to the staff to quicken this heavy task would be appreciated,” read the post. “Please come on in and show your Co-op spirit.”

According to Litka, several volunteers turned out on Sunday to clear out perishables. The Co-Op reopened on Monday, but the shelves in the dairy and freezer aisles were almost completely bare. Litka confirmed that the store would be 80 percent restocked by Friday.

“At this point we’re still calculating [the losses],” Litka said. “It was a catastrophic loss … The Co-Op is hanging in there. We are a small independent business. We are still struggling against the big guys still … We’re holding together. Thankfully, we do have insurance to cover the cost of this event, but it is catastrophic.”

PECO has gradually restored power to campus and the Ville throughout the week. On Wednesday, Thayer sent an all-campus email on Wednesday reporting that PECO had repaired one feeder to campus, and that generator power would be disengaged on Thursday morning.

However, not everyone is back on the grid. Students who live off campus in the Barn have not had power since the storm and have been provided emergency housing by the college.

Thayer thanked maintenance staff who worked to connect the generators.
We are indebted to them and the crew who gave up their nights and weekend to keep the lights on,” he wrote.

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