Winter storm Titan causes historic class cancellation at Centre College

Posted by Centre News in Campus, News 04 Mar 2014

swing_snowA visit from winter storm Titan dumped upwards of three inches of snow and ice on Centre’s campus late Sunday night, March 2, causing classes to be canceled on Monday, March 3.

Most members of the Centre family are quick to quip that the cancellation was the first since the Civil War, a legendary and popular — if slightly inaccurate — assertion. In its nearly 200-year history, Centre has seen much extreme weather and several subsequent class cancellations, as Special Assistant to the President, Chief Planning Officer and Pottinger Professor of History Clarence Wyatt ’78 recalls.

“The winter of 1977 -1978 was the second of two bad winters in a row,” he says. “As I remember, snow was on the ground from before Christmas deep into February.”

The blizzard-like conditions forced a state-wide emergency declaration — local police announced that those found outside on foot or in a vehicle for any reason other than an emergency would be stopped and possibly jailed. Understandably, Centre College canceled classes as well.

“Just before the declaration, I trudged up Main Street from Evans, where I was living, to a house that stood where Orange Leaf is now, where some friends rented an apartment, and weathered the storm there,” he recalls. “It was just a block, but it felt like an Arctic expedition.”

2009ice_stormAn expedition of an entirely different kind was in store for Associate Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience Melissa Burns-Cusato and Elizabeth Molly Dowling Associate Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience Brian Cusato during the infamous January 2009 ice storm that hit campus, incapacitating much of the area for days (pictured right).

Though many assume that Centre classes were canceled as a result of the storm, a quirk of the academic calendar, which was then on the break between January and Spring Term, meant classes were not actually in session.

The weather still got in the way of the Cusatos, who were returning from teaching a CentreTerm course on primate research in Barbados, and had already combatted numerous delays and other travel hurdles.

“We had a mad dash through customs and the rest of the Atlanta airport to catch our connecting flight home, which had been waiting for our group for over two hours,” Burns-Cusato says. “We all made it on the plane, but our luggage didn’t.”

This meant that after touching down in Louisville, Ky., at midnight, the pair stayed with all 18 of their students, who had to fill out missing luggage reports. Little did the Cusatos know what was waiting for them in Danville.

“We arrived at our house around four in the morning and immediately went to sleep for several hours without turning on the TV or catching up on the news,” she says. “When we woke up, the ice storm had already begun — very much to our surprise. We had no power, no groceries and no tolerance for cold after a month in Barbados.”

The two headed to Lexington to keep warm; after power was restored on their street (one of the first and only streets in the first few days after the storm), the Cusatos began hosting others who were still without power.

“All of our bedrooms were filled with Centre families in no time,” Burns-Cusato says. “At one point, we had 15 people living in our house. It was quite an adventure.”

A more lighthearted adventure occurred for students on March 3, 2014, after the class cancellation was ordered.

keffer_walkingH.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of French and German Ken Keffer did as he often does at Centre and went walking, inviting faculty and students recently returned from Germany, England and France to join him.

His email, as playful as ever, read: “Blessed be the hour of this snow! If you’re free and warmly dressed, why not join in a snow walk? Snow loves company.” He signed his email with the moniker “Unelected President of Centre for Walking.”

A substantial group of people showed up at the Campus Center and, with a German-flag toting Keffer, wandered through the snow for an hour and a half (pictured right).

“It was unofficial, ungraded and exhilarating,” Keffer says. “This day of all days — most beautiful of days — needs to be honored by walking.”

Thus it is that Centre has and will continue to weather storms in its own unique ways, with the occasional — and historic — class cancellation.

By Mariel Smith