Unpredictable weather to blame for student injury

Alethea Buchal

Remember opening your campus Webmail last week to find an e-mail from the Dean of Students warning you to watch out for the dangerous mud-piles?  

Perhaps the e-mail seemed a bit absurd and unconventional, but recent rapid fluctuations in the weather have affected many Whitman students.

 According to Dean of Students Chuck Cleveland there have been more than five incidents so far this term where weather conditions have caused injuries. One such injury occurred on Feb. 27 when sophomore Cat Stallwood-Valverde tripped in a mud-puddle outside of Memorial Hall and broke two bones in her ankle.

It’s been a little bit colder than a normal winter.”
-Kevin Pogue, professor of geology

“I was innocently walking back from Reid to the library on Friday afternoon. Unfortunately there was a huge mud area on the path that did not want me to go to the library that day,” said Stallwood-Valverde.

The mud that caused Stallwood-Valverde’s fall resulted from the contrasting frozen ground deeper in the soil and the less frozen, thawing out top layer. Walk on mud the wrong way, and you could suffer dire consequences.  

The multi-layered mud parallels the multiple levels of climate Walla Walla citizens experience every winter.  

“This time of year when the sun comes out, it could be snowing or raining,” said Donna Cummings, Secretary to the Dean of Students.

Professor of Geology Kevin Pogue explained the recent climate as a result of a change in the jet stream.  

“It’s been a little bit colder than a normal winter because the jet stream has been more south to us than it usually is,” said Pogue.

The jet stream–– high-speed, high-altitude air currents that circle the earth’s troposphere causing the formation of weather–– usually starts moving to the north of Walla Walla in the spring, creating warmer and drier weather.  

This year, however, the jet stream is blowing cold air right out of British Columbia onto Eastern Washington; hence the ice and snow.

To understand Walla Walla’s weather patterns a bit more clearly in order to plan for weather-appropriate wardrobe choice and outdoor activities, Pogue suggests visiting the National Weather Service Forecast Office’s Web site (http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/total_forecast/getprod.php?wfo=pdt&pil=now&sid=pdt&format=pre).

In the end, however, no weather can be completely predictable. Cleveland suggests that “if you don’t like [the weather], wait one more day.”

Said Pogue:

 “There’s a famous quote by Mark Twain ‘Climate is what you expect and weather is what you get.’ Weather is inherently unpredictable. It’s not always going to be nice and warm in early March and make you think of spring, sometimes winter’s just going to hold on a little longer.”

For more information the nature of jet streams visit http://squall.sfsu.edu/crws/jetstream.html and look under the “Eastern Pacific and Western North America” tab.