Classes and University operations on Monday and Tuesday have been canceled due to the predicted severity of Hurricane Sandy, Penn announced in a campus-wide email Sunday morning.
Sandy, which forecasters are calling the biggest storm to hit the United States mainland, is projected to hit the East Coast on Monday. The storm killed more than 60 people as it swept across the Caribbean days earlier.
The cancellation announcement also came through a UPennAlert from the Division of Public Safety. Classes on Wednesday are currently planned to continue as usual.
On Saturday afternoon, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced a state of emergency for the city, effective Sunday at 5 a.m. to Tuesday at 5 p.m. Three shelters in Philadelphia, including one at West Philadelphia High School at 4901 Chestnut St., opened Sunday at 4 p.m. for evacuated residents.
On campus, all academic buildings and libraries will be closed until Wednesday, according to Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli. “Essential personnel” — which includes safety, dining and residential employees — are the only staff members who are being asked to come to campus on Monday and Tuesday.
Several on-campus dining options will remain open during the storm, however.
All of the non-retail options at 1920 Commons, as well as the dining halls at Kings Court, Hill and Hillel, will be open for brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, as well as during regular dinner hours, according to Vice President of Business Services Marie Witt.
Hillel will serve only cold food during this time.
In addition, McClelland Hall in the Quad will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, as well as for dinner service from 5 to 8 p.m.
Students without meal plans will be able to purchase food at any of the dining halls with cash or credit cards.
Carnaroli added that the dining halls received extra shipments of food in anticipation of the hurricane over the weekend.
This is the first time since 2010 that classes were canceled due to inclement weather. Penn canceled classes for two consecutive days — Feb. 10 and 11 — when the Philadelphia region was hit with heavy snow.
As of 8 p.m. Sunday, Villanova and Drexel universities also announced they will be closed Monday and Tuesday. Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Brown and Columbia universities canceled classes for Monday only.
Carnaroli said the final decision to close operations on Monday and Tuesday was made following a 9 a.m. conference call Sunday.
About a dozen campus administrators — including personnel from the Office of the Provost, the Division of Public Safety and Facilities and Real Estate Services — were on the call, Carnaroli said.
“We’re anticipating the worst based on what we’re hearing, and we wanted to provide some level of certainty to the community,” he said.
Although it now appears that the worst of the storm will hit campus on Monday, Carnaroli attributed the decision to shut down operations Tuesday to the “massive cleanup effort” expected once the hurricane has passed.
“Rather than continue to track the storm and have a mild hope that it’d go off course … we made this decision to keep everybody safe,” he said. “Safety trumps all when it comes to these kind of things.”
While Carnaroli is not expecting any power outages at Penn, he said that most on-campus buildings have some source of backup power. He added that the University’s backup data center is ready to become operational should the main data center experience any power disruption.
On Friday, he added, FRES contractors ensured that all active on-campus construction sites — including the ARCH building on Locust Walk — were secure for the storm.
DPS will open its Emergency Operations Center at 6 a.m. Monday to monitor the storm. Some staff members will also go to Philadelphia’s Emergency Operations Center to better facilitate communication between the two centers.
In accordance with Penn’s crisis management plan, essential personnel from DPS, FRES, Business Services and Information Systems and Computing will be staying on campus throughout the storm. The University has rented rooms in nearby hotels such as the Sheraton, Homewood Suites and the Inn at Penn to accommodate these employees.
DPS has set up shifts for directors, PennComm personnel and police officers over the next few days to monitor the situation, according to Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush.
“The main focus of our operation units is to make sure students on and off campus are secure, if they need hospitalization, if there is flooding, if the phone lines go down…” Rush said.
The decision to issue a UPennAlert was a “well thought out decision,” according to Rush. She said DPS wished to drive the information out, as opposed to just having people check the website. “We wanted people to be aware, so it was an appropriate use of the UPennAlert due to the severity of the storm.”
DPS had previously run drills to prepare for emergency situations due to inclement weather.
“It’s in our playbook, and we have a response,” Rush said.
Continue to check theDP.com for updates on Hurricane Sandy’s impact on campus.