MIT prepares for the Frankenstorm
MIT is closed today due to considerations for Hurricane Sandy. There will be no classes, and all non-essential personnel will be off work for the three shifts of the day. Most of MIT Medical is closed, though Urgent Care is open.
McCormick and Baker Dining will be open with limited service this evening, though Simmons Late Night will remain closed. The rest of the dining halls should function as usual.
The MBTA shut down service at 2:00 p.m. today, and all U.S. markets closed in preparation for the storm. This is the first marketwide shutdown since September of 2001.
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 the news at 8:15 p.m. Sunday through http://emergency.mit.edu, 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 is expected to bring winds of 60 to 80 miles an hour to Massachusetts by Monday afternoon, and potential tide surges of up to 10 feet. Coastal flooding is possible, as well as major flooding in pockets. Sandy is now the second largest Atlantic storm in the past 24 years (which is how long hurricane data has been tracked), having already broken Hurricane Lili’s record from 1996.
The worst of the storm is predicted to hit Massachusetts Monday afternoon — though Boston will only experience the outskirts of the storm. As of this writing, Sandy is ranked as a category 1 hurricane, and is estimated to make landfall at New Jersey late Monday night or Tuesday morning. Meteorologists expect it to be downgraded to a tropical storm when it makes landfall.
MIT prepares for Sandy
MIT has taken 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 have all been cleaned of leaves to help prevent flooding, and water vacuums and sump pumps around campus have been tested. MIT Dining plans on getting large food deliveries Monday in case the storm causes transportation issues or food shortages. The dining halls and W20’s restaurants are slated to remain open for the duration of Sandy.
Facilities around MIT, including the Zesiger Center, will be 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.”
Whether or not the Institute will be open on Tuesday remains to be seen. “We will make an assessment about the Institute opening under the same time frame we used yesterday,” said Kirk D. Kolenbrander, Vice President and Secretary of the Corporation, in a phone interview with The Tech Monday afternoon. “We could make that decision early tomorrow morning. I would expect a decision will be made this evening, though it has not yet been made.”
How do you prepare for a hurricane?
Students are 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 Co-Generation plant would initially go down, activating the emergency generators. While the Co-Gen plan should be able to restart within a few hours, those in the northwest area of campus who do not rely on the Co-Gen plant may be on emergency power for a longer time.
“Power on campus is supplied by the Co-Gen plant,” said Kolenbrander. “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 can safely hold food for up to 12 hours if they are opened infrequently.
Sandy in Boston
MIT is not the only school in the Boston area to close for the day. All public schools in the Boston metro area have closed, and a number of other colleges — including Harvard University, Boston University, Babson College, Wellesley College, and Northeastern University — have shut operations down in preparation for Sandy.
In a press conference Sunday afternoon, Governor Deval Patrick requested schools to close and for Massachusites to stay off the roads during Sandy. Hundreds of homes in southern Massachusetts have already lost power due to intense winds, and more areas are expected to blackout as the storm progresses.
Federal aid is now supplementing local efforts, as President Barack Obama signed an emergency declaration for Massachusetts Sunday afternoon.
Logan Airport plans to remain 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,” she said 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 Hurricane Sandy is not predicted to be as damaging.
Students who have problems with leaks or other storm-related issues should contact 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/.