Jaclyn Hartwig gathered with her friends in Machuga Heights Thursday night. The crew lounged around and chatted with each other about how bad the snowstorm was outside.
However, the reality of the storm set in when she received an email notifying her that her building’s heat was not working.
“I went to [my friend’s] vent and it was coming out cold,” said the junior family science and human development major. “I went to my dorm, and it was still coming out cold. That is when I knew everyone lost heat.”
The amount of cars that were abandoned by their owners in the streets of Montclair is crazy
— Cristian Inga (@cristian2inga) November 16, 2018
Hartwig mentioned that going to a warm hotel was not an option because Uber rides were charging over $100 and the roads were stalled.
“The heat thing I’m just annoyed with,” Hartwig said. “I don’t want to stand in a cold dorm, but where else are we going to go?”
Lack of heat was just one consequence of the terrible snowstorm that hit New Jersey on Thursday night. Roads were backed up for several hours and students/faculty were stuck in traffic for long periods of time. Weather reports forecast 2 to 4 inches of snow but increased their predictions to 6 to 8 inches as the night went on.
Joel Yepez and Victor Aries help push a car past an abandoned vehicle in Lot 24. Yepez’s car is also stuck in the snow, and Aries is a volunteer fire fighter who has been helping move cars since 2 p.m. @TheMontclarion pic.twitter.com/VRquJxrcOc
— kristen (@kmilz32) November 16, 2018
University public relations detailed in an emailed statement how police and facilities personnel regularly observe weather reports on a hyperlocal level, with expert consultants at WeatherWorks as well as the Essex County Office of Emergency Management.
“Yesterday, however, our meteorologists and their colleagues across the region got it very wrong,” said university public relations in the email. “We suddenly found ourselves dealing with a storm that came quickly and dumped considerably more snow than expected. The precipitation didn’t turn to rain, but rather accumulated on the ground and roadways as snow and ice.”
Montclair State’s University Police Department helped direct cars in the stalled traffic. Campus roads were not able to be plowed because of the heavy traffic. Salt was not sprinkled on the roads either. Police Capt. Kieran Barrett explained the reason behind the traffic jams.
“This was an unprecedented statewide impact snowstorm that also greatly affected our traffic here at MSU,” Barrett said in an email. “As a hub connected to artery highways that were also at a complete standstill, traffic was backed up on campus because cars couldn’t get to and on the highways.”
Barrett also mentioned a fire in Montclair that created more traffic for people leaving campus.
“In addition, Montclair town traffic was disrupted by a house fire that diverted traffic to roads close to the campus. Cars couldn’t get off campus because everything around us was stopped,” Barrett said in the email. “Officers also responded to numerous motor vehicle accidents and emergencies. Our recommendation to any person stranded was to move their car to a safe location off the road and find warm shelter on campus, as there was no remedy to solve the chaotic off-campus traffic that left us locked here on campus.”
The university sent out emails and text message blasts during Thursday to update students about road conditions and class schedules. The shuttle services were suspended around 3:30 p.m., and classes starting at 5:30 p.m. and beyond were later canceled as well. The university encouraged students to remain inside until the roads cleared up.
Most dining places on campus closed early at 7 p.m. on Thursday night, but Freeman Hall closed at 8:30 p.m., Red Hawk Diner at 9 p.m., Sam’s Place at 9:30 p.m. and Blanton Plaza at 10 p.m.
The Student Center stayed open all night and gave out free ham and cheese sandwiches to hungry students stuck on campus. Natascha Komarnicki, a senior double majoring in Spanish and German, was one of the students who stopped in the Student Center to find food.
— Haley Wells (@HaleyWells28) November 16, 2018
“It was a really nice gesture,” Komarnicki said. “We were all actually really excited to get food because everything else was closed.”
Commuter students, like freshman fashion studies major Fatou Amar, were stuck on campus because roads were backed up. Amar was hanging out on campus after a fashion show rehearsal for the Native African Student Organization. She was supposed to take a NJ Transit bus home, but the bus did not come and Uber rides were around $100.
Amar and her three friends walked back to their friend Amanda Idiong’s apartment in Hawk Crossings, as they were stuck on campus and needed a place to sleep.
“I have back pain [from sleeping on the floor],” Amar said. “But it wasn’t that bad though.”
Other commuter students left campus to try and beat the storm. Senior journalism major Tiffany Baskerville left during her class at 4 p.m. to head home early. Unfortunately, she ended up waiting for 2 hours at the Montclair Heights train station for a train to show up.
“There were about a hundred or so people in the cold waiting for the train,” Baskerville said. “When I finally reached the Orange train station, which is close to West Orange where I live, all the buses were out of service. The cars were at a standstill in the streets. I had to walk about a mile to get to West Orange.”
— Tara George (@journoprof) November 16, 2018
Students were not the only ones affected by the delayed transportation conditions. Some professors chose to camp out in their offices or wait it out. Journalism professor Jennifer Lazarus was stuck on campus for 2 hours and could not make it to New York City for her foundation’s charity event.
“The commute to the city was 2+ hours and accidents everywhere,” Lazarus said in an email. “Our CEO [of the foundation] never even made it. It’s our biggest fundraiser of the year.”
The university opened at 11 a.m. on Friday morning. Classes at 11:30 a.m. and later were held on schedule. Residence Life also emailed students about when dining options and shuttle services would be available throughout the day.
“This storm, as is often the case with weather, was not in anyone’s control,” said university public relations in the emailed statement. “We ask that the university community recognize the administration’s primary concerns are always driven by the well-being of our community. In this case, we were all victims of the fickleness of nature. Last night, we did our best to make the best decisions possible, given the information we had.”
Contributors include Heather Berzak, Sunah Choudhry and Robert O’Connor