Tornado warning delays some campus activities, services

Thursday, March 14, 2019 - 8:10pm

Dark clouds outside the Stanford Lipsey Student Publications Building Thursday evening.

Dark clouds outside the Stanford Lipsey Student Publications Building Thursday evening. Buy this photo
Alec Cohen/Daily

There’s no place like Ann Arbor.

A tornado warning issued for northern Washtenaw County ending at 8 p.m. Thursday night resulted in some University of Michigan exams and academic events being delayed or unfinished, among other issues.

A notification from UM Emergency Alert recommended residents take shelter in the lowest available interior space and avoid windows, and told recipients to check news outlets for updates. Sirens sounded because a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was first spotted near Brooklyn, Mich. moving northeast at 50 mph.

The storm capable of producing a tornado passed over various Michigan counties, but the tornado touched down only near Vernon, Michigan.

The emergency alert caused a stir among students, especially on the UMich Memes for Wolverteens Facebook group. The group was inundated with memes relating to the incoming tornado.

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Courtesy of Tommy Wilbur

 

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Courtesy of Arjun Thakkar

LSA freshman Elana Rauch said she was with her roommate in her dorm room in Mary Markley Residence Hall when the warning was issued. She was instructed by her residential adviser to go to the first floor to remain safe until the warning was lifted.

“We found out when our RA texted in our hall’s GroupMe and she said everyone had to go to the first floor because a tornado warning was issued and everyone had to take shelter basically,” Rauch said. “When we got down there to the first floor, everyone was in pretty fine spirits. No one seemed to be that scared, everyone seemed to be making jokes.”

LSA sophomore Andrew Kohrman had a Physics 235 exam scheduled for 8 p.m. in Weiser Hall. Because of the warning, the professor delayed the start time. Kohrman said many students were already at the testing site, so they remained there for the duration of the warning leading up to the beginning of the exam.

“At about 7:40 p.m., right as I got into the exam room — it’s our lecture hall in Weiser — the professor sent out an email saying ‘We don’t want people to be outside right now, I’m going to set it back to 8:30 because the tornado warning ends at 8,’” Kohrman said. “Some (students) are studying, some are just chilling and talking, others are sleeping.”

LSA sophomore Kirsten Lanigan was in the Chemistry Building when she received the alert. Her structured study group was moved from their normal room into a room in the basement of the building to finish their lab.

“We kind of got shuffled around for 20 minutes and now we’re sitting in someone else’s lab in the basement finishing our SSG (Structured Study Group) section,” Lanigan said. “It’s interesting because the big center atrium is covered in glass, like the ceiling has glass. You can’t just go into the main basement area, you have to go into a classroom in the basement.”

Though Lanigan was not in the Chemistry Building for an exam, she also saw physics professors walking around confused about the status of their exams. She said people approached her and asked if her teacher granted permission to leave their original room.

LSA sophomore Sasha Tretyakova was taking a physics exam when the tornado warning began. She said she had not done a tornado drill since high school, so she was unaware of the protocol or what a siren signified.

Tretyakova said there was general confusion after the proctor told the students there was a tornado warning.

“Everyone exploded — everyone was talking and complaining firmly loudly for two minutes,” Tretyakova said. “That’s a lot if you’re in the zone trying to do all these physics equations … everyone was kind of disrupted by the sirens, by the phones going off, when the proctor told us people were literally talking during the exam, and I was like, ‘Are you serious? This is not a good testing environment.’”

LSA senior Sylvie Evarts was at a different exam, which started at 7 p.m. in the Ross School of Business. During the exam, she said a maintenance member informed students there was a tornado warning. Her class went into the basement until around 8:15 p.m., she said.

Evarts said her exam had multiple sections in it and was taken by approximately 250 students, so after the warning, her graduate student instructor told them they would not finish the exam and they would be in touch with more information.

“It was kind of hectic because there was another event going on at Ross with all the donors, so no one really knew what was going on,” Evarts said. “It was just the GSI who was giving the exam, so he was like ‘I have no say to tell you what’s going on.’”

Tretyakova said she was angry the physics students did not receive additional time to complete the test, even though both the siren and weather alerts sent to cell phones were going off while they were working. She said she was concerned for students who had to travel to exam locations.

“If there’s a tornado warning, you’d think that they wouldn’t have an exam,” Tretyakova said. “People were walking to their exams while a tornado might have potentially happened.”

University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen said in a statement to The Daily that the decision to cancel on-campus activities was at the discretion of the organizer.

“The tornado warning is expected to expire at 8pm,” Broekhuizen wrote. “If an event or exam was canceled, that would be a decision up to the professor or event organizer.”

Additionally, a student said buses were not available on North Campus during the time of the tornado warning, and the buses experienced delays once the warning was over.

Melissa Overton, deputy chief of police and public information officer for the Division of Public Safety and Security, said in a statement to The Daily that DPSS was not made aware of any problems at the time of publication.

“The Emergency alert advised it expired at 8 o’clock,” Overton wrote. “As of right now we have not received any reports of any issues throughout campus.”