old snow picture from 1978

A blizzard in January 1978 prompted the college to close for two days that year.  Hope has closed only about a dozen times due to weather in the past 91 years. Prior to Monday, Jan. 28, the last time was in January 2015. 

Snow days are a rare occurrence at Hope College, as anyone who’s trekked to or across campus when the local K-12 schools have been shuttered has been all-too-aware.

How rare?  The best estimate is that it’s happened only about a baker’s-dozen times in the past 91 years.

The college’s closing on Monday, Jan. 28, because of a winter storm was the first weather shut-down in just over four years — with the choice to close at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 29, through 11 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31, reflecting the event’s continuing severity.  The last time was in January 2015, when Hope closed late on the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 8, and remained so the next day.

With most students living on campus, the college can never shut down entirely.  Regardless of the weather, some members of the staff need to report to provide services such as dining and to clear the sidewalks.  Beyond extremes like the dramatic wind chills predicted for January 30, the decision generally hinges on considerations such as the travel conditions for the rest of the campus community (particularly if the authorities have advised staying off the roads) and whether or not the campus itself can be made and kept ready for the day.  

Hope has been more likely to close in recent years than in the more distant past.  The college closed three times in January 2014 (including delaying the start of the spring semester by two days) and also on Feb. 2, 2011.  Prior to that, Hope had closed for a day and a half in January 1997, delayed the start of classes for a couple hours because of freezing rain in December 1996, closed for a day in January 1994 and closed for two days in January 1978.  According to the “Anchor” of Feb. 3, 1978, that year’s closings had marked only the third time in more than 50 years that the campus shut down.