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What was originally predicted to be merely cold weather and a few snowflakes prompted a three-day hiatus of UAB classes, campus operations, and traffic on Birmingham’s Highway 280.
Universities and public school systems around the state began closing their campuses one by one as Winter Storm Leon hit on Tuesday, January 28th. The administration, which had previously announced that the anticipated snow fall would have no effect on businesses and classes, sent out a B-alert that shut down UAB classes, clinics, and normal campus operations for the day.
Students rushed to the Green for snowball fights, snow day pictures, and makeshift sledding with air mattresses and cardboard signs when they heard the news. Al’s Deli on 10th Avenue was bustling with those in search of late-night eats. Some students spent their time off from school, which continued on to Thursday the 30th, exploring the city.
“Some friends and I walked to Five Points for food, and we ended up exploring downtown Birmingham. We walked around the City Federal Building, the old Alabama Theater, and Railroad Park,” said sophomore Saadia Miran.
But it wasn’t all fun and games. Dubbed the “Snowpocalypse,” Winter Storm Leon left thousands of Birmingham residents and UAB teachers and commuting students stranded and their cars unattended.
Dr. Carl McFarland, a psychology professor and the head of the undergraduate neuroscience program, was among many UAB professors who spent several nights in their offices.
“I spent two less-than-entertaining nights in my office. I did this because I live in Mountain Brook, which doesn’t have a single flat road and because I was getting reports of banged up cars stranded everywhere. I wore the same shirt and pants for three days. Fortunately, these were no-iron garments so I looked relatively fresh as long as anything with olfactory sensitivity remained a distance from me. I slept on a thin exercise pad that was not unlike a good piece of cardboard. I did find a blanket capable of covering an entire baby,” said McFarland.
Despite the hardships of the week, the UAB and Birmingham communities came together to help those in need. The UAB Campus Recreation Center, with the help of donations in the form of a blanket drive organized by several UAB students, sheltered stranded students and Birmingham families overnight. The Commons on the Green remained opened during the campus closing and served not only students, but displaced community members as well. Facing unprecedented crowds, the Commons staff was joined by employees from other campus restaurants, such as World of Wings Café.
Classes and campus operations resumed on Friday.