Harvard College Opens Houses Early as Hurricane Irene Approaches

UPDATE 9:29 p.m.

With Hurricane Irene barreling towards North Carolina, the College opened up all 12 Houses Thursday, two days before the planned Saturday move-in date.

Citing the “possibility of severe weather,” including “high winds and torrential rain,” Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds encouraged students to consider scheduling their arrival on campus around the storm’s projected timetable.

Early Thursday afternoon, Irene, a Category 3 hurricane, hung over the Bahamas and was scheduled to make landfall on the North Carolina coast on Saturday.

Boston can expect to see rain on Saturday and then 50 to 60 mile an hour winds on Sunday, according to Bill A. Simpson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Boston office in Taunton. Power outages are also likely to hit Cambridge, according to Simpson.

“The path and the timing and the intensity are still up in the air, no pun intended,” he said. “This can go a hundred miles to our west and we’re still going to get the effects.”

Fears of Irene’s effects have bubbled up across the eastern seaboard, just days after a rare 5.9 magnitude earthquake in Virginia rattled the region. Governors have declared states of emergency in states along Irene's projected path, including Virginia, New Jersey, and New York.

The Class of 2015 had already begun moving into the Yard Thursday morning, before the announcement was made via email to the student body. Hammonds and other College administrators made the decision Thursday after reviewing the weather situation, according to Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesman Jeff Neal.

The effects on other College-planned events, especially for freshman orientation, remain unclear. Dean of Freshman Thomas A. Dingman ’67, taking a break from overseeing the always hectic Yard on move-in day, said that Sunday’s planned “Sex Signals” performances and the advising activities on Monday could be affected by the storm.

“We feel blessed that we’ve gotten through the bulk of the move in,” Dingman said. “We’re hoping we won’t have to change a lot of the programming.”

Nearly a year ago, the College rescheduled the fifth annual Harvard Carnival in anticipation of Hurricane Earl, which passed innocuously through the Boston area last September.

However, Neal said that no scheduling changes of this morning’s magnitude have been made “in recent memory.”

College administrators say that they will continue to monitor the situation and make any necessary adjustments over the weekend. The College is also prepared to provide extra support for students who have difficulties returning to campus, Secretary of the Administrative Board John “Jay” L. Ellison wrote in an email.

Already, other Boston institutions have considered adjustments to their weekend schedules. The Boston Red Sox are considering alterations to their three-game series against the Oakland Athletics to avoid the hurricane, and country music singer Kenny Chesney rescheduled a Gillette Stadium concert from Sunday to Friday, the Boston Globe reported on Thursday.

—Staff writer Stephanie B. Garlock can be reached at sgarlock@college.harvard.edu.

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