University of Richmond administration decided to maintain a normal work schedule for faculty and staff after already canceling classes, which will resume on Monday, and has prepared three back-up generators in anticipation of Hurricane Florence.
The university sent an email Thursday morning to the university community after forecasters determined that central Virginia is no longer expected to endure hurricane conditions.
This means that all dining services will be open and operate at their normal hours, except for Lou’s and The Cellar, which will be closed, and transportation shuttles will continue on their usual schedules.
Although facilities such as 8:15 at Boatwright and Passport Cafe often rely on student workers, Blake Widdowson, director of retail services, said students who will remain on campus had offered to take on extra shifts to cover any students who have left for the duration of the hurricane.
The university administration described the decision to maintain a normal work schedule for faculty and staff while having classes canceled as “an unusual situation” in the emailed announcement. They stood by their decision to cancel classes, noting that it had a narrow window to make a decision about the hurricane, which has dropped from a Category 4 hurricane to a Category 2 and shifted south and away from Virginia in the past day.
“We acted in an abundance of caution to respond to the needs of our students by canceling classes, thus allowing time for students to relocate before conditions made travel dangerous,” the email stated.
The university had already collected sandbags in case of flooding and prepared a large backup refrigerator and three generators ready to go to locations where power may go out during the storm, with areas that are more critical to the campus's functioning receiving priority, Cynthia Price, director of media and public relations, said.
The Heilman Dining Center administration ordered extra food and water so it would have enough to feed those who remained on campus for about seven to eight days, Executive Director of Campus Dining Bettie Clarke said.
“We’re getting extra fresh fruit, extra bread, increasing the orders that we would normally have delivered on a Monday,” she said. “We’re having them delivered on Thursday so that we’ll have food through the weekend and that will take us through the middle of next week.”
Price wrote in an email that the university does not expect that staff members will need to remain on campus overnight. Clarke also said on Wednesday that University Dining Services was prepared with beds and toiletries in case workers at the dining hall could not get home because of the weather.
Members of the Office of Residence Life and Undergraduate Student Housing had also planned on preparing cots in case students would have to leave their rooms for the hurricane, but Director of Residence Life and Undergraduate Student Housing Patrick Benner said he did not anticipate students would need them under the new forecast. All residence halls also have a backup system for emergency lights and the keypads for entering rooms in case the power goes out, though one of the three generators would be needed to bring them electricity entirely.
The University Police Department will have its command staff working at night and throughout the weekend, Chief Dave McCoy said. URPD's biggest concern is the ability for a quick off-campus emergency response, McCoy said.
“The concern is more so if there was a significant stress placed on the city of Richmond, would Richmond Ambulance Authority be able to respond in an appropriate amount of time,” McCoy said. “Those are the kinds of things we communicate with them.”
An Incident Management Team composed of members across 16 university departments such as URPD and the University Facilities will be meeting every day to ensure there are enough staff and resources on hand as the storm progresses.