By Simon Isham–

The university has already had twice as many cancellations and delays as in last two years combined. Though Provost Shirley Willihnganz, the person responsible for calling off school, does not think further snow days are likely, she and her staff talked to The Louisville Cardinal about the process for making a determination.

Willihnganz — or someone she appoints, often Associate Vice-Provost for Business Affairs Mitchell Payne — reviews a variety of reports to determine the severity of the weather and its possible effect on campus. Sources consulted include local newscasts, the National Weather Service, university police, U of L emergency management experts and Physical Plant. These entities look at the status of roads, sidewalks and parking lots, and make projections about whether conditions will improve or worsen. She also checks with Louisville Metro government and Jefferson County Public Schools to see what closings they are making.

Willihnganz said she stays up late and wakes up early any time a snow day looks possible. “I get called about 5 a.m. and Mitchell Payne, John Drees and I address the situation. I have coffee before we decide anything.”

Director of Communications John Drees, who oversees official university emergency communications for Belknap campus, said that “particular attention (is) paid to rush hour – morning and evening. In the event of heavy snow or ice, they even try to gauge the threat of falling tree branches or other dangers.”

Drees said that decisions to cancel class are primarily based on safety for students, faculty and staff. “This year has been particularly challenging because several of the weather systems have come through our area right at rush hour.”

When asked what she does all day when a snow day is called, Willihnganz said, “I try to catch up on email and watch the news for a while while hoping that I made the right decision. Sometimes I just sit in the window for a bit and look at it. Since I grew up in the northeast, I’m used to winter being white. When we get a lot of snow it feels like home.”

The university reminds students that the fastest way to receive news of school cancellations is through University “Rave” Alerts. Students can sign up for text and email alerts at Other official sources of information include the U of L homepage, calling (502) 852-5555 and the display on the VOIP phone in any U of L dorm or classroom. The Cardinal’s Twitter feed, @TheCardinalNews, tweets whenever is canceled or offices are closed due to the weather.

Photo by Sasha Perez/Louisville Cardinal