Soft snow covers plants at the Class of '39 Bell in the Carillon Gardens.

Soft snow covers plants at the Class of ’39 Bell in the Carillon Gardens.

Each year as the calendar turns to December, Clemson students, faculty and staff prepare for periods of questionable weather. Will it snow? Will ice cling to trees and power lines and bring them down? Or cover the roads making them unsafe for travel? Or will we just get a cold rain?

Sometimes forecasters can predict with certainty, but often we just have to wait to see. And prepare for the worst.

Clemson University’s safety team and leaders have to make some predictions themselves and take many things into consideration before deciding to cancel classes or close one or more of the university’s locations across the state.

Sometimes the decision is out of their hands. The governor can decide to close state offices, including universities, based on forecasts of threatening weather.

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South Carolina has many climates, ranging from mountains to seacoasts, and the weather can have a much different impact depending on your location. Several years ago, a statewide policy was enacted in which state offices in a county must close if the local county government office is closed. So if Pickens County government offices close, the Clemson University main campus also will close.

University officials can make decisions to close or delay opening without state or county action, but it’s not an easy decision to make. After all, missed class time must be made up and university employees may not be paid unless the governor later excuses the days missed. Otherwise, they have to use annual leave time for those days.

Here are the university’s emergency closing policy and procedures with details.

Snow on the ground in from of Tillman HallBefore making such a decision, the university’s Crisis Management Team gathers information to make a recommendation. Clemson University police check roads in the middle of the night and gather information from the Highway Patrol and other agencies, Facilities reports on conditions of on-campus sidewalks and roads, Emergency Management provides updated forecasts and so on.

The CMT members also discuss how to provide services to on-campus residents if the university does close.

Ultimately, the CMT makes a recommendation to the executive vice president for academic affairs, vice president for Student Affairs and president.

Their primary consideration is the safety of students, employees and visitors.

The Strategic Communications office in University Relations works with the CMT and safety officials and the university’s Executive Leadership Team to communicate with students, employees, the public and media about weather-related decisions through a variety of channels: