Iced Over: College Copes with New England Ice Storm

by Thomas More College on January 6, 2009

Christmas parties are always memorable and unique, and this year’s festivities held by the Thomas More College community were no exception.

Despite a near-crippling ice storm that knocked out power at the College and many homes and business across the northern New England region, Thomas More College celebrated its annual Christmas Party and gift exchange on Saturday, December 13.

Mariana Nino, junior at Thomas More Colllege, carries pillows and blankets to prepare to camp out at St. Christopher's Parish in Nashua.

Mariana Nino, junior at Thomas More Colllege, carries pillows and blankets to prepare to camp out at St. Christopher's Parish in Nashua.

This Christmas party was unlike any in the history of the school.  Until six hours before it began, the party’s very existence was doubtful due to the severe ice storm that left a half-million homes without electricity, and in some cases, telephones, heat, or water.

The storm hit New Hampshire and part of Massachusetts and Maine early Friday morning, December 12, knocking down trees and power lines across the region.  The late morning sun created a chilly but beautiful picture of glistening trees that bent under the weight of the ice-laden branches.  Without electricity and with the roads blocked by debris, faculty slowly made their way to campus, trying to salvage a day of classes to complete content from their syllabi and hold last-minute reviews for final examinations.

Used to the storms typical in New England, Thomas More College students took advantage of the sunlight hours by studying for exams, writing papers, and enjoying the wintry landscape.  As it was the eve of St. Lucy’s Day—traditionally the longest night of the year—the students also prepared for a long night without light and heat.

Meanwhile, the faculty and staff searched for alternative means of housing, calling already-full local colleges and hotels, with no luck.  Father Richard Kelley of St. Christopher’s Parish in Nashua graciously offered his church, despite the fact the he himself was without power in the rectory.

On Saturday, the decision was made to move the entire school to St. Christopher’s, along with the Christmas decorations and tree.  Since there were no kitchen facilities available, Chinese food was delivered by a local restaurant, and the age-old traditions of Secret Santa revelations and the gift exchange were performed.

The festivities were continued by creating a makeshift stage for the college’s annual play.  This year the students performed in The Play’s the Thing: A Group of Shakespearian One-Acts. “We didn’t know if the play was going to be able to take place this year,” said director and recent alumna Anna Maria Mendell. “It would have been a real let-down after all our hard work. We are very grateful to St. Christopher’s for giving us the opportunity to hold our performance as part of the Christmas celebration.”

Senior Gemma Cowhig and junior Tyler Tracey decorate the Christmas tree for the annual party and Kris Kringle gift exchange.

Senior Gemma Cowhig and junior Tyler Tracey decorate the Christmas tree for the annual party and Kris Kringle gift exchange.

Two sisters, Aja and Gemma Cowhig, staged an impromptu performance of “Sisters” from the movie “White Christmas” as part of the intermission.  The evening was concluded with students camping out in the church hall, playing board games, and chatting before setting up air mattresses donated by the parishioners.

When it became clear on Sunday morning that the power might not be restored for days, Thomas More College President Jeffrey Nelson declared the end of the semester and the postponement of exams until the students return for the upcoming spring semester.  Students returned to campus to pack their things and make last-minute arrangements to go home early, or stay with local friends until other travel plans could be made.  The campus was evacuated and students delivered perishable food items from the kitchen to a local food pantry.

The College sends special thanks to those who helped in our efforts to keep the students warm and fed, particularly to Father Kelley of St. Christopher’s parish and his parishioners.

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