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Smith College battens down the hatches as student wait for Sandy

NORTHAMPTON — At Smith College Monday, students nervously anticipated the much-heralded arrival of Sandy. Classes were cancelled, dining halls closed early. And then it was hurry up and wait.

The college had sent repetitive warnings to students about the possibility of a power outage. Students took heed.

“I feel nervous and excited at the same time,” said first-year student Pia Furken. She said she has plenty of non-perishable food ready, all her electronics charging, and flashlights out-just in case.

Meanwhile, most students took the news of the unusual school closing with good humor.

“It was relieving and awesome,” said Gabriela Caballero, a Smith College senior, said of receiving the news Sunday night that the college would be closed Monday. “A pleasant surprise.”

While dining halls were open for breakfast and lunch Monday, they were closed for Monday dinner and Tuesday breakfast.

Students weren’t left to entirely fend for themselves, however. Along with Monday’s standard hot lunch, the dining halls put out plenty of food for students to brown-bag for their next few meals, including the makings for sandwiches, bottled juice, granola bars, fruit, and bagels.

“I appreciate that they cancelled school, not just on a selfish note. It keeps all of the personnel off the streets and at home — even if bag lunch isn’t preferable,” said Caballero.

Ilse Barron, the chef at one of Smith’s larger dining halls, said Dining Services is hoping to re-open early enough Tuesday to serve a continental breakfast later in the morning, “but it all depends on what the storm does,” she said.

Several of Smith’s residential houses aren’t connected to back-up generators. In the case of a power loss, students in these houses will experience a mandatory evacuation, and they’ll be instructed to relocate — either to a friend’s dorm or to the Campus Center on Elm Street, where emergency cots are already being set up.

Students have mixed feelings about the prospect of evacuation. For some students, it’s bringing back memories of the chaos that ensued during last year’s October “Snowpocalypse” storm, when power was out for two nights, and several of these houses were evacuated.

Furken said she thinks the college is probably better prepared to deal with the situation this second time around. Nonetheless, she said, “I don’t want to get evacuated at all.”

But Rebecca Davidson, another first-year student, feels differently. “In a weird way, I’m kind of looking forward to the possibility,” she said, of camping out with her fellow housemates. Entertainment without electricity also has the potential to be more fun, she added.

As dark clouds hang overhead, anticipation is high for everyone, no matter their outlook. “I want it to start storming already,” said Caballero. “It feels weird just waiting for the rain.”

She’s excited, she said, “to just sit around and watch the storm.”


Hurricane Sandy closes municipal offices, schools, roads; first power outages reported; other essential information

Monday, October 29, 2012

The approach of Hurricane Sandy has resulted in school and road closings, many area businesses shutting down early Monday and the first reports of scattered power outages in the region. At midday Monday, there were 10 people already housed at the regional shelter at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School on Locust Street in Northampton, according to city emergency management …

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