Winter Weather Offers More Than Just a Wonderland for Commuting Students

Campus sidewalks are coated in ice following the winter weather that greeted the college as this Spring semester began.
Campus sidewalks are coated in ice following the winter weather that greeted the college as this Spring semester began.
Grace Weaver

While the small Village of Ferrum failed to receive the “White Christmas” for which many were hoping, the Spring Semester commenced with a flurry of wintery white here on campus.

With a scenic Winter Wonderland and the promise of a new semester, the countless snowmen, sledding tracks, and snowball fights across the college only furthered the sanguine ambiance–for Ferrum’s residential students, that is. 

For the commuting students, faculty, and staff, however, the concept of a snow day often alludes to an alternate term for those traveling throughout the winter season: Inclement Weather, and the dangers of facing the wet, icy, and generally dangerous driving conditions associated with the season.

  “Since (Jan. 15), there have been 29 Motor Vehicle Accidents within the jurisdiction of Ferrum Public Safety alone,” asserts Ethan Meade, a local volunteer firefighter and professional EMS.

As the calendar only reads January, it appears that last week’s snowstorm is only the beginning of the 2024 winter season, as well as the first of the many hurdles the college’s commuters will encounter this Spring semester. 

“I live 25-30 minutes from campus,” Abby Hudson, freshman, a commuting student, states, “and the drive is usually pretty safe.” 

However, Hudson’s route to campus is not always certain, and she often finds her journey to be nerve-wracking. 

“The weather definitely makes me more worried when it comes to getting to school. I have to leave earlier just to make sure I have time to drive slowly and cautiously. There are many twists and turns. I also have to constantly check my phone for the status of my classes at all times of the day,” she says. 

Hudson and her fellow commuting students are not the only ones to be impacted by the unpredictable weather and unsafe road conditions. They affect the faculty and staff as well. 

Political Science Professor Ed Hally, coordinator of the college’s Political Science Program,  journeys from Roanoke, an approximately one-hour drive, to greet his students in the classroom. Hally has been making this commute for 16 years.

“Early in my career at Ferrum, we had a few very brutal winters that lengthened my commute in January and February. I remember one trip home that took about 2 ½ hours because of how slow I had to drive,” he remarks, describing the route, “littered with other cars.”

As the weather will inevitably continue throughout the semester, the question of its effect on students’ education arises, but Hally refuses to acknowledge its impact in the classroom. 

“Recently few and far between, the snow days we have often turn into Zoom days and alternate assignments. I’m comfortable moving the class online, especially after my experience with the pandemic,” Hally says.

Hally also dedicates gratitude to the deans and administration for their understanding and serious take on commuting safety. 

In similar concern, Meade offers his advice on road safety as the commuting students, faculty, and staff continue their time on campus this semester. He has served the Ferrum community for more than four years. 

“My biggest tip for winter weather is to stay as safe as possible,” he says. “Keep a kit in your vehicle with essentials such as snacks, water, a charging pack for your cellular device, and a blanket to keep warm in the event of an emergency.”

He also suggests limiting travel to only necessary trips, planning ahead, and evaluating the conditions of the road prior to departing for the desired destination.

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