Published: Jan. 30, 2019

MSU suspends classes for only 7th time due to weather

Contact(s): Melody Kindraka Communications and Brand Strategy office: (517) 355-2282

Updated: Noon, Jan. 31, 2019

In an effort to keep students, staff and faculty safe, winter weather forced MSU to suspend classes and modify operations due to dangerous conditions. This is only the seventh time in its history the university has suspended classes.

The university suspended classes for Jan. 30 and 31 and moved to modified operations because of extreme wind chills below -20 degrees and dangerous road conditions. The university’s critical functions are being maintained, while electronic services and business operations are being supported remotely. Classes and normal operations are expected to resume Feb. 1.

In what the National Weather Service called “one of the coldest arctic air mass intrusions in recent memory,” the Midwest is facing frigid temperatures, bitter cold and life-threatening wind chills, leading to widespread record lows and low maximum temperatures. Gov. Whitmer declared a state of emergency for the state of Michigan and activated the State Emergency Operations Center.

On Jan. 31, due to statewide efforts to reduce natural gas usage, MSU took steps to conserve energy. Residence halls and laboratories were not impacted. However, office spaces were expected to be colder than usual. 

As part of further efforts to reduce energy consumption, domestic hot water was shut off in the following buildings:

  • Berkey Hall
  • Bessey Hall
  • Business College South Complex
  • Erickson Hall
  • Food Safety and Toxicology
  • Football Building
  • Geography Building
  • Law College
  • Natural Resources
  • Packaging

The university had only closed, canceled or suspended classes six other times:

  • Jan. 27, 1967: After a snowfall of 26 inches, the university closed for the first time in its history.
  • April 3, 1975: A freak snowstorm dumped 15 inches of wet snow that came down so quickly, roads and walks were impassable. As this was in April, many people weren’t prepared to deal with snow. The snowfall subsequently led to one of the biggest floods in mid-Michigan history two weeks later.
  • Jan. 26-27, 1978: A 24-inch snowfall closed the university for two days.
  • Jan. 19, 1994: Classes were suspended due to cold weather (18 degrees below zero; wind chill, 51 degrees below zero), the second coldest temperature recorded this century. The university remained open.
  • Feb. 2, 2011: Classes were suspended after “a top 10 storm” for Michigan, blizzard conditions brought about a foot of snow to mid-Michigan, along with high winds and frigid temperatures, creating dangerous wind chills and hazardous travel conditions. The university remained open.
  • Jan. 6-7, 2014: Classes were canceled and only critical functions of operations were maintained after heavy snow and extreme wind chills hit East Lansing on the first day of classes of the spring semester.

Spartans can keep up to date on the latest information at

Safety precautions 

During this time, it is important to think about winter preparedness on a personal level. Please take a moment to focus on your safety with the following tips.

Outdoor Safety: 

  • Dress warm. Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing.
  • Always wear a coat, mittens or gloves and a hat.
  • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold.
  • Keep an eye out for slippery conditions both indoors and out.

Travel safe: 

  • Carefully plan trips, avoiding long periods of time outdoors.
  • If you plan on driving, keep your car fueled, take a charger for your cell phone and consider packing a small cold weather kit including a blanket, bottled water and a snack.
  • Be aware of slippery road conditions; even after crews have been out, there may still be patches of ice snow on the roads and sidewalks.

While in campus buildings:

  • Keep windows closed; leaving them open, even for short period of time, can damage pipes and heating systems.
  • Leave the heat on. It’s OK to dial back the temperature in your space, however shutting off thermostats completely can lead to freezing conditions indoors.
  • Report cold conditions and leaks as buildings are susceptible to frozen pipes that may burst and cause indoor flooding.
  • If you notice areas of your space are unusually cold or observe water leaks, contact your service center immediately.