Maria M. Silva, Special Assignment Reporter
Utica was one of dozens of cities to experience snow and subzero temperatures as a polar vortex descended upon the United States — bringing severely freezing temperatures as far north as Minnesota and as far south as Georgia.
While native upstate New Yorkers may be used to the cold, Utica College students originally from warmer areas hold mixed opinions about the weather patterns and deal with snowstorms differently.
Last week, the first serious snowstorm of the semester left more than a foot of snow on the ground. After a brief warming period, students would be notified on Jan. 23 that night classes were canceled due to icy conditions caused by freezing rain — the result of a significant temperature drop throughout the day.
Daniela Hannah is a native of Georgia but has lived in Utica for three years.
“Back home, we do not have a lot of snow, so I was excited my freshman year seeing lots of snow for the first time,” she said.
But now, her opinion about the Utica winter has shifted.
“Being a junior now, I cringe at the idea of snow coming down if classes are still going,” Hannah said.
Compared to upstate New York, Georgia officials react differently to snow conditions and “everything gets shut down,” Hannah said.
“It gets cold around the 20s at night [in Georgia] but never in the single digits,” Hannah said. “The weather is cold, windy and rainy but there is still a lot more sunlight than upstate New York gets.”
When she is back in the Utica area during the winter, Hannah stays warm by avoiding outside, with the exception of taking pictures of how much snow is on her car to send to her family in Georgia. Overall, Hannah said staying inside with blankets and a “cuddle buddy” is the best way to wait out the winter weather.
Rachel Flores said she was excited the first time she saw a Utica snowfall. Coming from Hawaii, the junior had previously seen snow when she was a child, but it was after moving to Utica College when she saw “the first real deal.”
Before moving to upstate New York, Flores knew that snow was common in the area but admitted she did not know “how bad it could get.”
“It shocked me to see how, once it hit November in Utica, we would never see a blue sky until April,” said Flores. “It’s very gray here, but the people definitely make up for the weather.”
In comparison with the weather in upstate New York, Hawaii is sunny most of the year with an average annual temperature of 77 degrees, according to U.S. Climate Data. Flores said the coolest it gets in the Pacific island is around 65 degrees in the winter.
Despite being used to mostly warm temperatures and sunny skies, Flores admitted the winter weather in Utica does not affect her emotional health.
“I don’t get seasonal depression because I am still so amazed at the snow,” she said. “Even today it still excites me.”
When it comes to dealing with snowstorms and extreme winter weather patterns, it is important to layer up and make sure to wear appropriate winter boots, Flores said.
“What stresses me out the most is the ice on the roads and on the sidewalks because I had never experienced that,” Flores said. “When you live on campus you don’t take them as seriously but the roads get dangerous.”
Out-of-state students are not the only ones trying to get accustomed to the Utica winter. Internationals students, especially those coming from tropical and subtropical nations, also notice the weather differences between upstate New York and their native countries.
Rama Thakur, originally from Indi, said she was surprised at how different the Utica weather was in compared to what she had expected at first.
“When I saw pictures of the school online, there was snow and everything was beautiful,” she said. “What I actually didn’t think about is that the temperatures were seriously low. It is colder than I imagined it to be.”
Thakur, a sophomore, is originally from Mumbai, located on the Western coast of India. Growing up in her home city, Thakur said that she had never experienced “any temperatures below 60 degrees in the winter.”
Since the northern region of India near Nepal does get snow, Thakur said she has seen snow before, but she is “definitely not used to this.”
“If I go outside with my face uncovered, my nose starts to bleed a little bit,” she said.
Snow from the last two weeks has also affected students’ ability to travel back and forth to campus for classes and jobs. Thakur, who is also a library student worker, said she was not able to make it to work last week because of the snow that had accumulated on the roads.
Plowing on campus roads and sidewalks to ensure that students, faculty and staff can access buildings is part of UC’s response to winter snowstorms, which Thakur defined as “underrated in the eyes of the administration.”
“There are plow trucks that remove all the snow from campus, but I think that the administration sometimes fails to understand that people constantly drive in and out of the campus and the roads can get very slippery and tricky to drive on,” she said.
Thakur added that UC’s administration “should take snowstorms more seriously” by canceling all activities on campus to prevent anybody from getting injured.