November 7, 2011

Yes, it’s time to talk about snow

An earthquake. A hurricane. A Halloween weekend sleet storm. What’s next? The answer, inevitably, is “snow.”

And with the inevitable snow comes the inevitable question: Is Johns Hopkins open today?

Again, the answer is almost inevitable: Yes.

The university has a strong bias toward holding classes and operating normally when possible, even when local schools and other area colleges and universities announce delays or closures.

But there are exceptions. Remember the blizzard of ’96? The blizzard of 2003? And 2010?

So which will it be next time? Snowmageddon Part II, or get out the galoshes and get to class?

There are two easy ways to find out for sure without even getting out of bed.

Option 1: Grab the bedside phone and call the Johns Hopkins weather emergency hotline at 410-516-7781 or, from outside the Baltimore area, 800-548-9004. Option 2: Pick up your smart phone or other mobile device and check out

Information on the university’s status after an overnight snow is generally posted on the phone line and website by around 6 a.m., with frequent updates throughout the day during a major storm. Enter the phone numbers into your phone book and bookmark the Web address now, so that you know where to check for announcements during or after a storm.

Johns Hopkins remains on a normal schedule whenever possible, both because minimizing interruptions to teaching and research is a priority and because so many university employees and students are involved in patient care.

But there are exceptions. In 2009–2010, Baltimore was hit with 77 inches of snow, more than four times the normal seasonal total. After back-to-back blizzards in February 2010, classes were canceled and most employees told to stay home for an entire week.

Though Johns Hopkins notifies local news media when it closes, cancels classes or tells staff to report later than normal, there are reasons why you should rely instead on the weather emergency hotline or the emergency notices Web page:

• The phone line and Web page make information on Johns Hopkins available as soon as a decision is made. Both are updated as soon as there is new information.

• Both the phone line and Web page are available to you at all times. If you rely on TV or radio, you’ll have to wait until the Johns Hopkins announcement comes around.

• TV and radio will not broadcast announcements when Johns Hopkins remains open, only when it is closed or has a delayed opening. The phone line and Web page will provide information whenever the weather is questionable, even if it’s just that the university is open as usual.

• The phone line and Web page will provide the most complete and accurate weather emergency information available on Johns Hopkins. TV and radio stations must report on dozens or even hundreds of institutions. They do not have time to broadcast everything you need to know, including information on outpatient clinics, snow day shuttle bus operations, and library and rec center status.

The university’s policy on weather-related curtailment of operations is online.