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|GONZAGA UNIVERSITY NEWS FEATURE|
|Stranded by the Snow, Student Finally Gets Home|
Stranded Student Finally Gets Home
By Peter Tormey
The Gonzaga University campus was a beautiful blanket of white crystals sparkling like diamonds in the sun, but it began to snow again and showed no sign of stopping the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 17 as Gonzaga sophomore Nathan Blamey finished his last exam and prepared to fly home to San Jose, Calif., for Christmas.
Pardon Blamey, a mechanical engineering major, for not dreaming of a White Christmas as he anticipated a sunny holiday at home. Blamey had booked a flight to the Bay Area to leave Wednesday, Dec. 17, but decided to see his friends “one last time” and changed his flight to Thursday morning.
One small change had enormous ramifications. Yet no one could have predicted the odyssey Nathan was about to endure. The weather systems and the stars themselves, it seemed, had aligned for what local forecasters referred to as the “perfect storm.” For Nathan, it was a desperate, five-day struggle to get home for the holidays.
At 10 a.m. Wednesday, a series of record storms began that sent Spokane reeling like a punch-drunk boxer into the ropes. Like one knock-out punch after another, Spokane was pummeled with 7.5 inches of snow Wednesday – an all-time record for Dec. 17 – followed by another daily record of 10.8 inches on Thursday when Gonzaga and virtually the entire city of Spokane closed for two consecutive “snow days.”
By 10 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 18, the National Weather Service announced Spokane had eclipsed an all-time record for snowfall in a 24-hour period: 19.4 inches, shattering the previous mark of 13 inches set in 1950.
Nathan and friends had awakened Thursday, Dec. 18, at 5 a.m. and shuttled to the Spokane International Airport hoping the storm might lift so their planes could leave. The Red Cross brought cots and coffee for the weary would-be travelers in what was beginning to look like a scene from a disaster movie. Unfortunately, Nathan and hundreds of other Gonzaga students – plus thousands of holiday travelers – learned one by one their flights were canceled.
“The airlines wouldn’t announce your plane was canceled until 10:30 or 11 (a.m.), so you’re in the airport for five or six hours a day lying on the ground,” he recalled. “More flights get canceled and they don’t tell you anything. They just say ‘we’re going to de-ice the plane’ or they’re going to ‘check the runway.’”
The students returned to campus, dejected, downcast, yet determined to try again. A special treat awaited them on campus. After Gonzaga’s annual President’s Christmas Party was canceled due to snow, Gonzaga President Father Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., fed the multitudes (several hundred students) stranded by the storm with food that was to be used for his party.
As Nathan’s father Jim Blamey says, it was a feast the students won’t soon forget.
“Nathan told us, in one of his many sad calls home, that the school fed the kids that were around one night,” Jim Blamey said. “He indicated that he had one of the best meals in his two years of studying at Gonzaga. I thank you for helping our son and all the others who were caught in the storm(s).”
Nathan and his four friends arose early again Friday and Saturday, went to the airport but again received no good news on flights out. There was, however, one consolation: A Gonzaga friend of Nathan's, who lives in Spokane, asked Nathan spend Christmas at his home if he could not get a flight home.
“The five of us drove up to Schweitzer (Mountain) and tried to make some fun out of what was going on so we went snowboarding that day,” Nathan said. “It was really windy and cold. I think the temperature that day was a minus-25, including wind factor.” Nathan and his fellow Zags were among the dozen or so people who braved the cold to ski or snowboard. Bundled with layers of clothes, they did their best to stay warm.