Staying warm and safe as a VCU student in the harsh Richmond winter

This winter has shown a large chunk of the United States receiving a blast of chilly weather under what has been hailed as some of the worst ice storms of the season. Winter storms like Hercules, Atlas, and Leon have spread their icy, snowy fingers across the country, leaving havoc in their wake. State conditions range from frigid temperatures to sleet, snow, and ice combinations. Several deaths have been reported, mostly occurring from treacherous traveling conditions. Homes smothered in several feet of snow, invisible and deadly patches of black ice, and suffocating blizzards make the task of getting to class on time for the students of Virginia Commonwealth University arduous.

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While students are granted short reprieves through several hour delays and occasional cancellations, eventually the trek back to class must be made. “Survival guide to stay safe in the frigid cold,” an article in the January 22, 2014 edition of USA Today, author Jolie Lee offers suggestions to those who have no choice but to brave the frigid weather conditions. While it’s nearly a right of passage for college students to gorge themselves on pizza, chips, soda, and coffee, unpredictable weather offers the opportunity to stock up on essentials. Students, whether living in the dorms or off campus, should remember to prepare in advance. It is wise to have at least a week’s worth of food and safety supplies on hand in order to avoid needing to leave the house. Easily accessible drinking water, canned food, necessary medications, blankets, and battery-powered flashlights and a radio are all suggested necessities. You might also consider items like rock salt, sand, snow shovels, and windshield scrapers. Many states are advising their residents to stay indoors in the face of these ferocious winter storms.

If the need to leave home arises, as with VCU students reporting for class, it is best to layer clothing in a way that allows you the flexibility to add or remove articles of clothing depending on changes in the weather. The three main layers are wicking, insulating, and weather protection. The wicking layer is the layer worn closest to the body and should pull moisture away from the skin while remaining comfortable. A popular wicking choice is long thermal underwear. Synthetic fibers, such as polyester, work well. For those who prefer something else, silk is a comfortable, natural fabric with excellent wicking abilities. The second layer of clothing is the insulating layer and should consist of items like sweatshirts, sweaters, vests, and hoodies. Fleece and wool are common choices. The final layer, the protection layer, is most often used to protect against the elements such as snow, ice, rain, and wind. It should repel water or snow while also letting perspiration evaporate. For the VCU student trekking through the slush and ice, denim jeans or ski pants are appropriate. Many sports stores carry clothing often used by professional winter sportsmen and women like skiers and snowboarders. It is also extremely important to remember to cover the head as one can lose up to 60% of total body heat solely through the top of the head. Ideally the garment should cover your head and ears but some prefer those that also cover their noses and mouths. Ski masks and jackets with neck gaiters provide an extra layer of protection against the biting wind.

In the face of such biting, frigid weather, it is absolutely suggested to stay indoors and out of the ice and snow unless absolutely necessary. In college, “absolutely necessary” may come around when it’s time to trek back to class before all of the snow has fallen. With the majority of VCU students walking or biking to classes and work it is imperative to have a secondary mode of transportation on hand. VCU’s public transportation system, RamRide, is available for students and is “comprised of three routes that provide transportation on and between the campuses. The Campus Connector travels from the Monroe Park Campus to the MCV Campus, the VCU Medical Center Route – I Lot goes throughout the MCV Campus including Sanger Hall, MCV Campus Bookstore and Coliseum Deck and the Sanger Express – A Lot route travels between the A-Lot and Sanger Hall.” Students and staff can locate a route map on the VCU Public Transportation web page, http://www.parking.vcu.edu/vcupark/RamRide.htm, as well as a real time bus tracker. Students, faculty, and staff may ride free with a valid VCUCard. VCU also offers a secondary public transportation system, RamSafe, that provides free transportation service to on-campus locations and nearby residences and buildings. Both RamSafe and RamRide may post any changes to scheduled routes or services due to inclement weather on the Public Transportation web site or on their Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/vcuparking.