Warm Weather Marks Start of Winter Term

Winter term, often cold and dreary, was uncharacteristically warm until late last week. While favorable temperatures have increased outside enjoyment for students, the school has also saved money because of the modest weather. According to Ron Johnson, Office of Physical Plant (OPP) Grounds Manager, the school has used less than five percent of the annual snow removal budget this year. Every year, OPP sets a budget for overtime salary. They designate 2,000 hours of that to pay for snow removal and salting. The rest of the budget is reserved for special events and emergency situations. In 2001, the snowfall was above the average amount of snowfall in prior years, depleting the overtime budget. However, there is no reason to anticipate a repeat of the incident, especially for this winter. Mr. Johnson said, “We have used less overtime hours for plowing, and the demand for sand and ice-melt is down.” He said that OPP plans on using the additional money to work on tree removal and brush work. OPP has already removed dangerous trees in residential areas and plans to clear persistent vegetation. OPP monitors dorm temperatures based on when most students are in classes. This winter, for the time periods when students would most likely be in classes, the thermostats were set between 65 and 67 degrees. For when students are expected to be in the dorm, the thermostats are set at 68 and 70 degrees. Carlos Montanez, Associate Director of Maintenance and Utilities, said, “From an institutional and budgetary perspective, the warmer weather has helped.” In addition, the Academy has conserved a significant amount of energy this winter. Mr. Montanez said, “Anytime you can maintain a stable heating range and also set the program sequence to accommodate occupant usage patterns, energy savings will be realized.” The entire Northeast region has also experienced a similar trend toward warmer temperatures. According to the Boston Globe, January 6 temperatures reached 70 degrees in the Boston area. Nevertheless, the weather has become colder for the past few days. On Thursday, January 17, the lowest temperature reading in Boston was nine degrees Fahrenheit – a sharp contrast to the temperate weather only a week before, according to the Boston Globe. Justin Chew ’07 said that with new plants blooming because of the warm weather, he was experiencing difficulty with allergies that are not normally part of the winter season. According to OPP records, the snowfall is currently far below the mean yearly rate. Mr. Johnson said, “Winter is far from over, and I am sure we will have more snow and ice events before spring arrives.” The weather, however, has created some issues. The Nordic skiing team has not benefited from the lack of snow and has had to run instead of ski during practice. Anne Elder ’09, a member of the Nordic team, said, “I think we’ve [the Nordic team] been working almost extra hard to make up for the lack of snow but I think it will be better when we get snow so we can actually work on form.” On Thursday, the Nordic Skiing team had to travel over three hours to Grafton Ponds in Vermont to compete. Elder said, “I’ll be much happier once it snows. I think the whole Nordic team will be.” The abnormally warm weather has been considered by many meteorologists to be either an effect of global warming, El Niño, or both. Some students are looking forward to a snowy campus. Deidra Willis ’09 said, “If it’s cold and it’s not snowing, it’s not worth it.” For other students, even the mild weather is still a change. Nadine Khan ’09 said, “It’s so cold. I’m dying. Everyone’s saying, ‘You really don’t know yet.’” Khan, along with Lanita Foley, Associate Director of College Counseling, and James Richardson, Visiting Instructor in English, received an Abbot grant to fund surveys to evaluate the feelings of students about winter. They are also looking into purchasing full spectrum lights for some buildings on campus to raise spirits during winter months.