Storm of the Century
Blizzard and Berry aren’t two words that generally appear in the same
sentence, but 20 years ago this week the world’s largest college campus found
itself squarely in the crosshairs of what is now remembered as the Storm of the Century.
Beginning Friday evening, March 12, 1993, and continuing into the early
morning hours of Saturday, March 13, the massive storm system dropped more than
a foot of snow on Berry and the surrounding community. Hundreds of trees were
toppled by the heavy snow and high winds, blocking the stretch road to the
Mountain Campus and leaving many without lights or heat. With the power out,
students huddled in the residence halls and elsewhere were left to marvel at
the eerie, multi-colored lightning that periodically illuminated the winter
landscape throughout the night.
When dawn broke March 13, Berry was cut off from the outside community,
meaning students had to step up in vital areas such as food service to be sure
everyone – including younger siblings on campus for “Sibs and Kids Weekend” –
had something to eat. The Campus Carrier reported that workers actually broke down the locked door to the dining hall to
get it up and running that Saturday. Later that evening, appreciative students
waited in the darkness in a line stretching from one end of Krannert Center to
the other to eat dinner.
On the Mountain Campus, WinShape students trapped by fallen trees all
along the stretch road gathered around the fireplace in Hill Dining Hall to
keep warm. Three eventually hiked to the Old Mill, where 1993 alumnus David
Wallace snapped an iconic image of the Berry landmark buried in snow.
“That hike up
there was probably one of my most vivid memories,” Wallace recalled, noting
that the three walked in a single-file line and took turns leading in order to make
their way through the hip-deep snow. “I also remember on Friday when the snow
was still only about 3-4 inches deep we were out having a snowball fight. While
we were out there we suddenly heard a crack of thunder. I'd never heard thunder
in a snowstorm. That was when I knew it was going to be bad.”
Power was finally restored to Main Campus on Sunday, though the
Mountain Campus remained in darkness for several more days. Classes were
cancelled the following week, giving students an unprecedented two weeks of
spring break. Many stayed on campus for several days after the blizzard to
assist with cleanup efforts.
The storm that left such an indelible impression on Berry wreaked havoc
from Cuba to Canada, spawning deadly tornadoes and storm surge in Florida and
producing record snowfalls up and down the Eastern Seaboard. By the time it
dissipated, more than 300 lives had been lost. Thankfully, there were no deaths
at Berry, just an unforgettable weekend (and then some).
Afterward, then-faculty member and Mountain Campus resident Dr. Dan
Panici summed up the feelings of many when he told the Campus Carrier, “The
first seven days were fun-filled, adventuresome and [full of] the pioneer
spirit. There’s a thin line between the pioneer spirit and a pain in the
[rear]. And the seventh day we crossed over the line.”
By Rick Woodall (93C, FS,