Admissions weekend, tornadic weather

This year’s big weekend saw big weather.

The final Go Gator Admitted Student Overnight is the biggest overnight event hosted by the Allegheny College Office of Admissions, bringing more than 100 high schoolers to campus for two nights of planned activities for prospective students.

What was supposed to be a sunny and clear weekend with a Monday morning snowfall, quickly turned into pingpong-sized hail accompanied by 75 mph wind gusts. A night where high school students could experience their future home turned into a seek shelter emergency.

Starting with a tornado warning issued by the National Weather Service, campus officials sent out an alert at 6:32 p.m. urging the college population to seek immediate shelter just minutes before Sunday night host matching. Tour guides and prospective students became trapped in the buildings along their tour routes.

“We were actually having a session in Carr upstairs and then we went down into the basement,” said Interviewing Intern Sadie Longo, ’19. “We had really good conversation. A lot of people asked questions about Allegheny, and I feel like we had some good connections.”

Admissions staff, overnight hosts, prospective students and their families stationed in the Henderson Campus Center were relocated to Shafer Auditorium to weather the storm. To prevent boredom, the admissions staff attempted to play “The Incredibles” on the big screen but encountered internet issues due to the weather. Parents were attending a reception in the Patricia Bush Tippie Alumni Center and rushed to the basement.

“I was on my way to the campus center when the tornado warning (siren) started going off,” said Nicole Foulkrod, ’22. “As soon as I got there, they were telling everybody to go into the auditorium. We were in there for probably like an hour to an hour and a half.”

Foulkrod, who is a resident of Edinboro, Pennsylvania, was sent pictures and videos of the storm damage from her family and friends. She noted how her hometown received more hail than the college.

“Some of the news places from Erie were posting pictures of the hail and how it was like the size of their hand or there was like the size of pingpong ball or bigger,” Foulkrod said.

This has not been the first case of extreme weather this year. This tornado warning was the second warning issued during the 2018-19 school year, with the first occurring in September. A heat wave at the beginning of the fall 2018 semester forced some students to sleep in the air-conditioned campus center. The polar vortex of Jan. 30 and 31, closed the college for two days to prevent students and faculty from exposing themselves to sub-zero temperatures.

At 7:11 p.m., the college sent out an alert update, extending the weather shutdown until 8 p.m. McKinley’s Food Court was partially shut down for the safety of workers and students and the workers were invited to join the students in the auditorium, according to Foulkrod.

“A lot of people were posting updates of the cloud formations and how they were starting to rotate but there wasn’t actually a tornado that touched down as far as I know,” Foulkrod said. “People were posting on Snapchat and everything of the hail outside, and people who were in their cars driving couldn’t see anything because of the hail.”

The Grilled Cheese Soiree, hosted by the Delta Tau Delta fraternity in Schultz Banquet Hall, extended its hours in light of the alert to seek shelter. Several members of the fraternity were not able to join their brothers in assisting with the event as they were trapped in other locations.

The fraternity intended to have speaker Tammy Breckenridge from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation speak at the event, but the weather did not cooperate.

Service Chair of Delta Tau Delta Ian Lowery, ’21, said he was talking to Breckenridge with John Fazio, ’19, president of Delta Tau Delta, when the alert came across. He pointed out how Breckenridge’s son was the first to receive a severe weather alert, which confused the workers.

“After that, once the alert started flooding in, the clouds rolled in,” Lowery said. “We eventually had to evacuate to the basement. Everything was locked down.”

This is Lowery’s first year in the fraternity, and even though he said he was still a fresh face in the group, he said this was the most “active and insane” event the fraternity has hosted since he became a member.

Lowery said all proceeds from the event will go straight to JDRF in its research on Type 1 diabetes.

“For a while now, we’ve been wanting to have an educational component to these events,” Lowery said. “We wanted someone to talk about themselves, how they got involved and what JDRF is and what they do for people.”

The buffet hours of operation were extended until 9 p.m. The self-heated tubs allowed the grilled cheese selections to stay warm without creating a fire hazard.

“Keep an eye out for next semester when we’ll be doing something like this again,” Lowery said. “This time we’ll have the speaker actually speak.”

The tornado warning was lifted at 7:48 p.m. with an additional note about thunderstorms continuing through Sunday night, and the overnight events for prospective students resumed. There were no recorded serious injuries or major damages to college infrastructure.

“It didn’t really seem like if there was a tornado that touched down, it wasn’t going to be right in Meadville; it wasn’t going to be close enough that anybody would be hurt by it,” Foulkrod said. “Obviously, there’s still damage that could be done, but it didn’t seem like it was too dangerous as far as people getting hurt.”