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Flight delays, cold disrupt first day attendance


As the phenomenon that’s been described as a “polar vortex” descended on the country, bringing some of the lowest nationwide temperatures in the last 20 years, thousands of flights were canceled and delayed as regions of the country face snow, ice and subzero temperatures.

This unusual weather is expected to bring temperatures as low as the 20s and 30s to the Bay area and prevent some students from attending the mandatory first day of classes in order to avoid being dropped.

USF Media and Public Affairs Coordinator Adam Freeman wrote in an email to The Oracle that the university didn’t have an exact number of students impacted by the delays, but knew that some students were affected and in anticipation Senior Vice Provost for Student Success Paul Dosal emailed faculty informing them that dropping students from their courses was at their discretion and that emails explaining these weather delays could be counted as first-day attendance.

“Given the Arctic-like conditions prevailing in many locales outside of Florida, please bear in mind that flight delays or cancellations and icy roads have made it difficult for some students to get back to Tampa,” Dosal wrote. “While we must adhere to our mandatory first day attendance policy, you also have complete discretion over the drops. If you have been notified by students that they cannot attend the first class, you can simply delay submission of the attendance rosters or not mark them as absent if you know that they intend to keep the class. If a student is dropped inadvertently, the college/department can approve the student’s reinstatement.”

The polar vortex, or patterns of the atmosphere that have brought cold air from the northern hemisphere, Charles Paxton, a Ph.D. candidate at USF and the Science and Operations Officer for the National Weather Service, said, is not completely atypical.

“Typically there’s low pressure near the North Pole and surrounding areas,” he said. “When that pressure extends southward, it brings colder temperatures.”

But temperatures are expected to return to normal within a couple of days, when the polar mass shifts eastward, and there is no reason to assume the cold anomalies will become the new norm, he said.

Although it is unlikely Florida will break any low temperature records, today may break Florida’s record for the lowest high temperature, which is expected to be 47 degrees, according to Bay News 9.