Gracie Campbell – Staff Writer
Winter weather is expected living in the Midwest. However, the storms that rolled in right before Christmas break were record-breaking. The systems just before the holiday brought below-freezing temperatures, flight cancellations, inches of snow, and stress as students traveled home.
Just as thousands headed home and travel picked up over the country, snow systems hit the East and North U.S. heavily. This system, dubbed Storm Elliott, impacted millions across the country. Weather Underground reported that “more than 60 percent of the American population was under some sort of winter weather alert”.
The system began in the Northwest on Dec. 20, moving across Oregon and Washington state toward the Midwest and northern Midwest over the 21st. Elliott then shifted toward the East coast, intensifying in the northern states of New York and New England.
The city of Buffalo, New York received over three feet of snow which caused officials to urge residents to stay off the roads. In Ohio, snow and ice conditions on Interstate 80 were at fault for a major car crash involving fifty cars and multiple fatalities. Additionally, millions lost power throughout the storm, and in some states, officials instituted rolling blackouts.
Thousands of flights were canceled or delayed just before Christmas, interrupting travelers trying to reach their destinations. All airlines were impacted, and Southwest was hit especially hard. One Mile At A Time cites that 90 percent of Southwest flights were either delayed or canceled.
Though the storm centralized on the coasts and northern states, the Midwest was not exempt, and neither were Dordt students.
Ben Baker, a junior biology student from Toronto, Canada witnessed these struggles firsthand when flying home for Christmas. Planning on flying out of Sioux Falls on Dec. 21, Baker’s plane was delayed three hours. By that time, the flight had been canceled altogether.
“I went downstairs to get my luggage back [but] they had no idea where either of my two bags was,” Baker said, “…at the time they were lost with all my baseball equipment and whatnot.”
Baker ended up staying in an airport attached to the hotel for the night and moved to another one as the airport shut down entirely. Baker finally found a flight early on Christmas Day that was also delayed by an hour.
“We got lucky in the fact that they grounded a bunch of flights like five minutes after my flight left, so we didn’t get grounded,” Baker said.
He still missed the connecting flight home and ended up meeting his grandparents in Cincinnati, finally arriving home on the 30th.
After Storm Elliott was over, however, weather issues still prevailed. Another system moved in and caused issues for Dordt University students leaving on AMOR trips. The trip to Cambodia, led by Sam Ashmore, took a significantly different route than originally planned. The team left Sioux Center on Dec. 29 for the Sioux Fall airport. The team was confident that Sioux Falls’ snow would be better than the icy rain expected in Sioux Center.
The group boarded the plane on time, ready to de-ice, expecting to roll out within half an hour. After an hour of waiting with snow picked up, the plane deboarded but assured passengers that the flight was only temporarily delayed. However, this caused problems for the group attempting to make their layover destination.
“That delay, we could’ve chanced it and gone to Denver, but we would’ve missed our flight,” Ashmore said.
After checking with the travel agent, Ashmore worked with the United agent for almost two hours trying to find a flight.
“We were trying to get nine people across the world without too much of a delay on our trip,” Ashmore said.
The group created different strategies with one involving splitting the group up and arriving at different times. However, there ended up being exactly nine tickets on better flights and the group arrived only eight hours later than they were originally supposed to.
Overall, Storm Elliott will be remembered as the Grinch of 2022, a storm that created many issues for Dordt students and impacted millions across the country.