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How NIU decides if the weather warrants campus closure

December 16, 2016

16-snowman-1205-swWhen wintry weather takes a turn for the worst, students and employees often ask if the university will be open. As a general rule, NIU is always open until otherwise notified.

The decision to declare an emergency weather suspension of campus operations, including class cancellations, is a data-informed, consultative process involving several areas, including Public Safety, the Physical Plant, Environmental Health and Safety and other university divisions.

Decisions concerning class cancellations are finalized by the provost, and emergency weather closures require presidential authorization.

“Weather information can change quickly, but it is the overall intention to avoid making short-notice closure decisions as much as possible,” says John Heckmann, associate vice president for Facilities Management and Campus Services. “The overall intention of the review process is to reach a closure decision well enough in advance to execute an effective notification effort.”

So what are factors that go into determining the status of university operations and whether to cancel classes?

To help to make the decision, NIU uses data from its staff meteorologist to assign a numerical value to the following weather-related criteria contained within the NIU Severe Weather Model for School Closures:

  • Temperatures of -10, -15, -20 and -22 degrees
  • Winds, with gusts ranging from 10-80 miles per hour
  • Snow or snow mixed with sleet in process or accumulating; snow/sleet just ended as of 8 a.m. on a business day
  • Freezing rain and ice accumulation ranging from trace amounts to more than .25 inches
  • Other issues, including dense fog and low visibility

Score totals above 50 but below 100 mean that a closure should be discussed by university officials.

A score at or above 100 means a complete closure of the university during the time of the forecast should be recommended to leadership. Scores of 100 are automatically given if the following circumstances take place:

  • The low temperature reaches -22 degrees Fahrenheit or colder (without wind chill)
  • Any of the following roads are closed in DeKalb for weather-related reasons:
    • Route 38/Lincoln Highway
    • Route 23/4th St.
    • I-88/Reagan Tollway
    • Annie Glidden Road
    • Other major roads leading in and out of the city, such as First Street, Fairview Drive or Malta Road
    • Widespread, impassable side streets
  • A blizzard warning is issued by the National Weather Service
  • An ice storm warning is issued by the National Weather Service
  • A state of emergency is declared by the governor or other local, state or federal officials
  • NIU Grounds Maintenance is unable to open roads, sidewalks, parking or facilities for safe campus operations
  • Buses are inoperable

This model serves as a guide but is not the only criteria considered in determining a campus closure. By using data to inform its decisions, NIU tries to make the best decision possible with regard to overall campus needs.

It also is the personal responsibility of all students, faculty and staff to make their own decisions and judgments concerning travel conditions.

NIU uses the following methods to notify the campus community of delayed starts or closures:
– Weather Status Update page:
– The University Homepage:
– Email to your NIU email account
– Message through the NIU SAFE app: