Guidelines for Deciding Inclement Weather Closures
Western Michigan University may close in the event of inclement winter weather. Severe wintry conditions can cause full or partial closure. It may be necessary to close the Kalamazoo and/or regional locations at any time of day and sometimes, only a portion of a day’s classes may be canceled. WMU’s closure policy can be found at wmich.edu/policies/closure. The following information is provided to help you understand how the decision to close is reached. Also provided are some helpful related links that may assist you in dealing with wintry conditions.
During challenging winter weather conditions, faculty, staff and students should make every reasonable effort to arrive and remain on campus for their regularly scheduled commitments. At the same time, safety is very important, and all individuals are advised to always use good judgment about the risks of travel.
The leadership team that makes the decision to cancel classes for an entire day will try to make the announcement no later than 6:30 a.m., recognizing those who have a long commute. For delayed openings and partial closures, the intent is to provide notice at least two hours in advance of closure. However, with the unpredictability of weather and any resultant complications, this may not always be possible.
Safety is primary. A number of factors play into the decision to close or delay opening due to inclement winter weather:
- As wintry weather descends, we factor in the ability for campus crews to clear snow and ice on campus so that our roadways, parking lots and sidewalks are safely traversable. Snowfall timing and accumulation impact the snow and ice that might persist as you navigate campus. Please see wmich.edu/facilities/landscape/snow-removal for the guidelines on snow removal, including how sites are prioritized.
- The conditions of off-campus roadways are also closely monitored, including primary local streets (Oakland Drive, Drake Road, Howard Street and Stadium Drive in Kalamazoo) as well as main arteries, such as Interstate 94 and U.S. 131. Announcements made by the Michigan State Police regarding road conditions are followed.
- Wind chill also is considered. WMU follows the Centers for Disease Control and the National Weather Service guidelines regarding safe wind chill levels. The “feels like” temperature threshold that is usually used for closure when there is precipitation is equal to or less than minus 20 degrees. However, extreme wind chills and temperatures need to persist throughout the day rather than be of brief duration during the day.
- WMU begins to monitor forecasts of significant weather events in advance of the day of occurrence. If an event is predicted, the leadership team begins conversing the evening prior to the event. Discussions continue on the day of the event (if weather is occurring) as early as 4:30 a.m., up to the time the decision is made to close. If WMU opens and the weather continues to deteriorate, conditions are monitored throughout the day and the leadership team continues to consider the need for closure.
It is important to note that WMU has multiple regional locations across Michigan. Weather conditions are monitored for each site, and decisions are made independently for each one. When WMU’s campus in Kalamazoo closes, the WMU-Battle Creek regional location as well as the College of Aviation in Battle Creek also close. The open status of the remaining regional locations will vary due to conditions in their individual areas.
Although WMU monitors local K-12 closings, this factor by itself does not impact the University's decision to close. Due to the age of its students, as well as busing service, the needs of a K-12 school district are distinct from a university campus.
In summary, the University is constantly monitoring conditions. Decision-makers continue to keep watch on a number of issues—on the “feels like” temperature, snow accumulation, condition of campus surfaces and the state of off-campus roadways.
Finally, for those on campus during times of heavy snow, remember that parking may be limited and snow and slippery conditions may persist throughout the day, with high-priority areas of campus to be cleared of snow or de-iced first.
Remember that slips and falls due to ice and snow are the most common injury-causing incidents on campus during the winter months. Some helpful hints and guidelines for being safe while traversing campus in winter can be found at Winter Safety Tips, Winter Walking Safety.
As soon as a decision is made about closing a campus, the decision is publicized through:
- The WMU home page at wmich.edu
- The WMU Alert system
- Area radio and television stations
- The WMU emergency information phone line at (269) 387-1001.
The University community is encouraged to frequently check the WMU home page for weather-related updates.
Since each severe winter event is unique, the factors considered and the weight given to each factor in reaching a decision will be dependent upon the event. These guidelines are provided to share the factors WMU considers when making a closure or delayed-start decision due to the weather and are not intended to function as a policy.