At Samford, unexpected snowfall spurs help for stranded students, employees

The Baptist-affiliated university in Birmingham, Ala. — one of several Southern cities taken by surprise by the level of snowfall — responed to hundreds of students and employees unable to get home.

By Robert Dilday

When a winter storm dumped more snow than expected on Birmingham, Ala., Jan. 28-29, students and staff at Samford University stepped in to assist several hundred people stranded on campus by slushy streets and traffic gridlock.

Tuesday’s storm dropped several inches of snow across much of the Deep South — not enough to shut down cities in the North but plenty to paralyze Southern towns with few snow plows or other equipment.

Snowy FootballAs many as 8,000 elementary and secondary school students in Alabama and Georgia were reported staying overnight in buses and gyms when they were unable to get home.

At Samford, university officials closed the campus on Tuesday morning as the school’s emergency response team worked throughout the day to provide services to more than 2,000 residential students and the hundreds who were stranded.

Staff and resident students collected sleeping bags, pillows, linens and extra toiletries for those staying in offices and campus buildings. A few employees took advantage of sons and daughters who live on campus to snag a room for the night. And at midnight, music faculty and students staged an impromptu jam session in Brock Recital Hall.

Meanwhile, on Lakeshore Drive which fronts the campus — immobile with motorists trying to navigate their way home — students distributed snacks, prompting a “pretty cool” from at least one Twitter post.

“Under the circumstances, I think we can be proud of the way the campus has responded,” said Harry B. Brock III, the Samford vice president who convenes the emergency response team.

Randy Pittman, Samford’s vice president for advancement, agreed. “The spirit on campus has been good, and people continue to be cooperative and patient as we work through this emergency.”