by George Watkins
Cardiff University was ground to a near total halt by strong winds and heavy snowfall towards the end of last week, leading to fears over student and staff safety. Mocked by some as a ‘traditionally British over-reaction’, students were forced to stay away from lectures after the University issued official warnings sent by text and email.
Storm Emma swept across Western Europe from Siberia, bringing strong winds and up to 50cm of snow across the country, leading to the first red weather warning (representing a danger to life) in recent memory. Roads have been blocked up and down the UK, with some queues backed up for most of the day. However, heartwarming stories have emerged despite the weather, such as a woman giving birth on the side of a motorway on Thursday.
University buildings remained open on Thursday morning, but when it was clear that many would be unable to come in, staff and student, they were shut by 10am, leaving some unfortunate students who had a 9am feeling rather unlucky. Heroically, the Students’ Union remained open for both days, with only the food court seeing closures. The heavier the snow fell, the fuller The Taf became, acting as a disaster refuge centre.
One student joked that the snow had led Cathays to be ‘the cleanest I’ve ever seen it’, after the roads were covered in a blanket of snow around a foot deep in places. Even the ongoing bin and litter crisis seemed to be somehow transformed, one person laughing at how ‘even the takeaway boxes look pretty in the snow’. As night fell, an eerie silence descended on the district, with most drivers not brave enough to risk the conditions, leading to many students taking to the streets for snowball fights, that is, those who opted to leave their sofas and Netflix to brave the -4 degree conditions.
The closure has been viewed differently from different areas of the campus. Some celebrated, while many were away on Reading Week. However, for many the combination with the ongoing strikes by the UCU was frustrating. At the time of writing, 5754 students had signed a petition pushing for compensation for students for the lost time, not necessarily financial.
The strikes are continuing this week, but some students have received a lifeline in the form of extensions or other extenuating provisions to compensate for both the time lost by the protests, as well as because of the snow.