Winter Storm Jonas hits Lexington, W&L officials respond

Winter storm leads to cancelled classes, limited parking spaces for local students and residents

Maria Rachal

In just the second week of Winter Term classes, new Interim Provost Marc Conner has already had to make a weather crisis decision.

On Friday, Jan. 22, Washington and Lee cancelled classes and excused non-essential employees. The City of Lexington declared a winter storm emergency effective 6 a.m. Friday morning, resulting in a three-day school week for students following Monday’s Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

According to The Weather Channel, Winter Storm Jonas caused blizzard conditions along the East Coast from Virginia to Connecticut, with several states reporting snow accumulations of over 30 inches on Saturday.

Director of Public Safety Ethan Kipnes told the W&L community Thursday evening that as per Lexington City Code, certain streets during snow storms are not available for parking, including sections of South Main, Nelson, Jefferson, and Washington Streets.

Non-compliant vehicle owners risk being towed at their own expense, Kipnes said, but to offset the retraction of street parking, vehicle owners are allowed to park free of charge in various lots and parking garages around Lexington.

Hannah Gilmore, ‘16, parks her car on McLaughlin St. in front of her house.

“Considering I’m from North Carolina, it’s a little bit concerning how much snow I’m going to have to move to get my car out,” Gilmore said. “But I was nervous about getting a parking ticket so I opted not to move it to the parking deck.”

shoveling snow on the colonnadeProvost Conner said that prior to any predicted storm, he meets to discuss possible weather and safety scenarios with Vice President for Student Affairs Sidney Evans, Vice President for Finance Steve McAllister, Vice President for Facilities John Hoogaker, Director of Buildings and Grounds Randolph Hare, Director of Public Safety Ethan Kipnes, and others.

On the day of a possible closing, Hare calls Conner at 5 a.m. to discuss updated and predicted conditions of W&L’s campus, and roads in Lexington and Rockbridge County. Conner then decides whether to continue with a regular class schedule, delay classes, or fully cancel classes.

“Previous provosts have shared with me that, no matter what decision the Provost should make, at least half the campus will be unhappy about it,” Conner said. “The fundamental issue to be considered is the safety of our students, staff, and faculty.”

Following the Provost’s decision, communication from the Provost via email as well as messages from the General Alerts system are distributed to community members.