WSU Tri-Cities Inclement Weather Information

Our Facilities team works hard to ensure campus can remain open during winter weather. WSU Tri-Cities campus will be closed or operations delayed only when campus cannot be made safe for students and employees.

During periods of inclement weather, conditions impacting the WSU Tri-Cities campus are monitored continuously, and decisions regarding campus operations are made each morning and each afternoon.  Staff begin evaluating conditions each morning by 5:00 AM.

Our students, and the public in general, expect us to provide access to facilities and services in support of their education.  We make every effort to meet that expectation, but only if we determine that we can do it safely.  Student and employee safety is our first priority.

Below are the four primary factors in determining whether WSU Tri-Cities will open, delay, or close on a daily basis.  Condition of campus will always take priority over the other criteria – if we believe that campus operations can be safely maintained in predicted weather conditions, campus will open.

Condition of Campus

Condition of campus parking lots, roads, and sidewalks is our primary focus, and is the area most directly under our control.  Crews arrive early each morning to ensure that parking lots are accessible and that roads and sidewalks are safe for foot traffic.  This does not mean that all snow will be removed, particularly from parking areas, but we will remove the bulk of snow and ensure access to each building.  Crews will monitor campus conditions continually, and if we cannot maintain safe access to campus we will not remain open regardless of any other considerations.

Weather Forecast

Forecast conditions are evaluated regularly, primarily using reports from the Pendleton office of the National Weather Service.  These are used to predict whether we can maintain campus access under expected conditions.  This can be tricky, particularly during winter weather when the quantity and type of precipitation predicted can change quickly.

Local Road Reports

We evaluate the conditions of local roadways daily, with staff actually driving the primary routes to campus and providing first-hand information on their condition.  We gather additional information from Department of Transportation and Washington State Patrol regarding area highways, from Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco Police departments and the Benton & Franklin County Sheriff’s offices regarding local roadways.  We cannot evaluate every roadway and parking lot, but use this information to determine if primary access to campus is available.

Other Local Agencies

When possible, we collect information from nearby agencies, such as Ben Franklin Transit, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the Hanford Site.  These relate directly to campus, as they directly impact a portion of our campus population and also the amount of traffic on the local roadways.  We receive notices from local school districts, but these do not factor heavily in decisions regarding campus operations, as the school district decisions are based largely on school bus operations that we do not have.  Operations of Columbia Basin College are also not a strong factor in our decision, as their location provides far more support from municipal plow crews than ours.

The fact that campus is open should not be perceived as a mandate than any student or employee must come to campus. 

Our evaluation of conditions centers on campus and conditions local to the Tri-Cities, specifically on the ability of campus to function.  It does not, and cannot, reflect conditions for each individual.  We understand that some students and employees come from distant locations like Moses Lake, Pendleton, and Yakima, but our decision must focus first on the campus conditions that we can control, and second on the local conditions impacting the majority of our population.

Students and employees must determine for themselves, based on their location and local conditions, whether they will come to campus on any given day.  Anyone who does not feel safe traveling is advised to stay home.

Other Questions related to Inclement Weather Closures & Delays

When campus is closed, or operations are delayed, how will that be communicated?

In the case of adverse winter weather delaying or closing campus, announcements are made through:

***No notification will be made if campus is operating normally.***

When is it decided if start time is delayed, or if classes will be canceled?

In some cases an earlier determination can be made, but our goal is to announce delays and closures by 6 a.m. for daytime classes and by 3 p.m. for evening classes

How do I sign up for notifications?

Log into your my.WSU profile

Click “Profile”

Click “Emergency Notification” in the menu on the left side.

Click “Update Now!”

Complete and submit the form with your contact information.  Be sure to select Tri-Cities as your home campus.

Can parents sign up to receive notifications?

No, only people with an active WSU network account can sign up.  However, students and employees who register for notifications can enter a parent/guardian phone number as part of their registration.

Why is WSU Tri-Cities open when the local schools are closed?

Local school districts base their operational decision largely on the health & safety of minor children waiting at school bus stops and traveling on school bus routes.  This means that K-12 schools will limit operations for much less severe conditions, and they must consider a wider geographical area.  Since WSU Tri-Cities does not operate school buses, and primarily serves an adult population, our decisions are based more closely on conditions near campus.

Columbia Basin College serves a population more similar to that at WSU Tri-Cities.  However, their campus location – adjacent to the freeway and the airport – means that they receive more support from municipal snow removal crews than WSU Tri-Cities does.  They also have more regular bus service to their campus, and are likely to remain accessible in more severe conditions.

Operations of the Hanford Site, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Ben Franklin Transit are given greater weight, as these directly impact a portion of our campus population and also affect the amount of traffic on nearby roads.

Condition of campus will always take priority over decisions from other agencies.  If we believe that campus operations can be safely maintained in predicted weather conditions, campus will open even if other agencies do not.  Similarly, we may close or delay when others are open, if we cannot adequately address snow and ice on campus.

The closure/delay announcement says only "snow removal personnel" should come to campus. Who does this include?

Only Facilities Maintenance and Grounds staff are designated as snow removal personnel.  All other personnel should follow the instructions provided in the closure/delay announcements.

Why am I asked to stay off campus during a delay? What is happening on campus during a delay?

Campus Maintenance & Grounds staff work to clear snow and ice from parking lots and sidewalks during a delay.  These efforts are critical to ensuring that our facilities are safely accessible.

All other staff are asked to stay off campus for two reasons:

  • First, snow and ice may make safe access to buildings difficult or impossible.  People arriving early have a higher risk of slips and falls resulting in injury.
  • Second, as more cars arrive in the parking lots it becomes more difficult to effectively complete snow removal.  Crews are forced to plow around these vehicles, which creates obstacles and unplowed areas.
What if I think it's unsafe to travel to campus?

Students and employees should use their best judgment to assess if travel is safe given their personal circumstances (i.e., neighborhood road conditions, condition of their automobiles, etc.). Students and employees should not come to campus if they feel it is unsafe for them to travel. If they decide not to come to campus, they must communicate their decision with their supervisor or professors. Supervisors have discretion to allow the employee to work from home if appropriate to job duties.  Employees should review their leave options if working from home is not an option.  Students must ask their professors how to make up course work as such options are at the discretion of the professor.


If I do not work due to inclement weather, can I take leave?

There are a variety of leave options available, based on employee position type.    Information regarding your specific situation may be found on the WSU Human Resource Services website:

If I stay home during inclement weather, won't it affect my grades?

If an instructor holds class during a weather event, but a student does not attend due to adverse conditions, the student should not be penalized. Allowances to course attendance policy and scheduled assignments, including exams and quizzes, should be made by the instructor. These allowances can include excused absences, make-up options for exams and quizzes and extended deadlines for assignments.  Students should be sure to communicate with their instructors regarding attendance during inclement weather.

In many cases instructors will cancel classes, or offer assignments online, during periods of inclement weather.  They recognize that some students may be unable to travel, and they may choose to stay home themselves.  Instructors should make an effort to communicate cancellations with enough notice as possible, so that students traveling from a distance do not come to campus when not necessary.

If classes are canceled, are university buildings and services also closed?

Notification messaging and alert websites will include details regarding campus status.  In general:

  • During a delay, university buildings are typically closed while snow removal is completed.  Buildings will open at the time indicated in messaging, and classes may then be held at the instructor’s discretion.  Even if buildings are open, instructors may elect to cancel their classes.
  • During a closure, all classes are cancelled and buildings are closed.  Snow removal activities may occur during a closure, unless additional snow/ice is falling or in the immediate forecast.  In order to allow crews to completely remove snow and ice, it is important that people stay off campus during this time.  Additional people on campus and cars in the parking areas create obstacles and prevent complete clearing of the areas around them.

When university buildings and resources are closed, some university resources may be accessible online. These resources could be limited or delayed.

If classes are canceled, what options do faculty have to make up course work?
  • Faculty can use their discretion to decide if they would like to offer students an alternative learning option that does not require travel to campus. Faculty will not be penalized for working remotely to provide students with alternative learning options.
  • If possible, students should turn in assignments electronically. If not, they should turn them in the following class session. Students and faculty should communicate via WSU email AND Canvas.
  • If there was a test or a lab scheduled for the day that a class is canceled, it will be rescheduled as soon as feasible.