Walking in a Wildcat wonderland: How to survive winter weather

At the end of the first snow day of the semester, students sled down the sides of “the Bowl” outside William T. Young library on Jan. 16, 2018. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Bailey Vandiver

After turning off their alarms and before checking their favorite social media sites, many college students likely check another app: Weather.

The temperature, wind chill and precipitation are especially important to students who have to walk across campus throughout the day. The UK administration is dedicated to keeping students safe— and, whenever possible, warm— as they attend classes and other events around campus.

For example, President Eli Capilouto sent a campus-wide email just before classes started, which was the week after Lexington had single-digit temperatures for several days.

“As we start the Spring 2018 semester, I am particularly grateful to the members of our Physical Plant Division, who worked tirelessly last week and overnight in tough conditions to manage the extensive challenges resulting from bad weather,” Capilouto wrote. “They ensure, every hour of every day, the safety and soundness of our infrastructure. When you see them, thank them.”

While the cold weather has stuck around for the beginning of the semester, it is mostly warmer than it was for the first several days of 2018.

“Compared to where we have been, it may have the feel that spring has arrived,” said Matt Dixon, staff meteorologist at UK’s Agricultural Weather Center.

The weather that Lexington experienced from Dec. 28, 2017, to Jan. 3, 2018, was highly unusual. The daily temperatures “averaged 17 degrees below normal here in Lexington,” Dixon said.

Hopefully the temperature will only go up from here, because Dixon said January is Lexington’s coldest month. However, February is the “snowiest” month for Lexington, Dixon said.

Though UK students had their first snow day in January, February has the highest average snowfall, with 4.6 inches. UK spokesperson Jay Blanton explained the process when winter weather causes a cancellation.

He said a team, led by Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Eric N. Monday, evaluates the weather conditions and makes a recommendation to Capilouto. That same team also monitors inclement weather conditions and works with the Physical Plant Division to prepare campus.

Blanton said the goal is to make a decision as early as possible, though the weather does not always follow the administration’s preferred schedule.

“But the goal is early and timely information,” Blanton said.

The team also takes into account what the Fayette County schools decide about weather conditions.

Blanton said a larger team discusses safety and food needs, as well as conditions in residence halls and campus buildings.

“For example, if the campus is closed for a day or longer, as has been the case a few times in recent years, we have to ensure that dining halls remain open as some 7,000 students live on campus,” Blanton said. “We also work to ensure that recreational facilities, such as the Johnson Center, can adjust their schedules so that students have an outlet while tied pretty closely to campus.”

Because UK has students from all over the country and world, some students may be more prepared for snow, ice and other winter conditions than others. Some UK personnel members offered winter tips for students.

“I think the number one thing to mention given the target audience of college students is that drinking alcohol lowers your core temperature despite the fact that you feel warmer,” said Jesica Lopez-Huskey, a Marketing/Promotion Specialist Senior at UKPD.

Michele Laur, a safety specialist at UK, also offered several tips, including tips for safe sledding— though she does not encourage sledding on campus. She said avoid sledding near trees, fences and light poles or on rocky hills.

She advised going down the hill feet first and learning how to stop and turn using your feet. Don’t have more than the recommended number of passengers on a sled, she said, and don’t ride on a sled pulled by a motorized vehicle.

Lastly, she said bring your cell phone in case you need to make an emergency call, which applies to anytime while traveling in winter weather.

Laur’s full list of tips is listed below.

1. Wear lots of layers. Put several layers of clothing on. Make sure your head, neck and hands are covered.

2. Smart shoes. Wear boots or shoes with treaded soles—avoid plastic and leather soles. Streets, parking lots and sidewalks that have been shoveled and plowed should still be approached with caution. No matter how well snow and ice are removed you could still encounter a slippery surface when walking outdoors.

3. Have a plan. Give yourself plenty of time to get to where you are going – driving or walking. Check the smart routes on the UK Walk Safe. You may need to take a different route to your dorm or class. Try to take primary routes at the beginning of the day.

4. Smart Steps. Shuffle or take small steps when walking outside. Avoid carrying too much stuff so you can use your hands and arms to balance yourself. Use handrails when going up and down stairs coming off the bus or inside a building maintaining three points of contact to avoid falls.

5. Remove snow and salt from shoes. When entering a building, remove as much snow and water from your shoes as you can on the rugs, and take notice of any floors or stairs that might be slippery.

6. Report. If you see a winter weather hazard or have a fall report it to [email protected]. The Office of Environmental Health and Safety will disseminate the information to the correct group to get the issue attention. We use this information to identify priority areas during the winter season and for planning of upcoming seasons. If we don’t know about it we cannot address it.

7. Car battery dies on campus – Transportation Services offers free on-campus battery jump-start service. This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week anywhere on campus for all valid UK parking permit holders and campus patients and visitors.

8. Watch for danger signs. Signs of frostbite are pale, grey or blistered skin on the fingers, ears, nose and toes. Signs of hypothermia are shivering, slurred speech, and unusual clumsiness. If you show signs of frost bite or hypothermia seek medical attention.

9. The Wildcat. The wildcat made a winter weather video to help keep you safe this winter.