Students continue to go out despite dangerous weather

Despite subzero temperatures and multiple weather advisories, University of Iowa students have continued to frequent downtown bars and restaurants during February.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Several students are seen walking on the University of Iowa campus on Feb. 4 after a snowstorm rolled through earlier that day.

Claire Benson, News Reporter

Despite Iowa City experiencing freezing temperatures and winter weather advisories—with the wind chill making it feel close to 35 degrees below zero outdoors in recent days—some students continue to attend downtown bars and restaurants.

The National Weather Service has released several warnings urging people to stay inside as much as possible, citing that being outdoors for more than 10 minutes could result in frostbite and even hypothermia.

The University of Iowa has released several Hawk Alerts in addition to a campus-wide email sent by Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Angie Reams, emphasizing the recommendations from the National Weather Service.

“When it is this cold, it is important to limit time outdoors, dress in layers, and stay dry to keep yourself warm,” Reams said. “All students are encouraged to use good judgment and avoid unnecessary travel during this time.”

Two of the Hawk Alerts fell on Saturdays, Feb. 6 and Feb. 13, and despite these warnings, there were still many students that went out and visited downtown bars and restaurants.

UI first-year student Stephanie Schmidt said she has gone out these past few weekends, and although she would rather be out with friends than alone in her dorm room, she said she regretted her decision.

While Iowa no longer has capacity restrictions on bars and restaurants, areas with large numbers of people in close proximity, like bars, are at a high risk for COVID-19 spread.

RELATED: The University of Iowa to continue in-person learning despite below zero windchill

“To be honest, it was just freezing,” Schmidt said. “I kept worrying about getting frostbite or hypothermia on my way back. And then, after the first night, I started telling people ‘no way.’ I started canceling going all the way to the recreational center because I didn’t want to deal with the cold.”

Being a UI alum himself, Iowa City Nighttime Mayor Joe Reilly said he remembers students going out to bars and restaurants during freezing temperatures without adequate winter clothing to protect them from frostbite.

Reilly said he thinks this issue has improved in recent years, which is important now especially with COVID-19 precautions limiting seating inside restaurants and bars.

Reilly said with many downtown bars reaching their capacity sooner than usual due to COVID-19 restrictions, this has caused lines to form outside establishments, exposing students and patrons to the dangerous temperatures while they wait.

RELATED: Wind Chill Warning in effect as temperatures dip well below zero

“We have had frostbite conditions where if you’re 10 minutes exposed, you have frostbite,” Reilly said. “That was definitely longer than the wait at some lines. So, students need to do their due diligence, and these people going out need to weigh the options and say ‘hey, do I want to have to go seek medical attention while I’m out with my friends or would I rather enjoy my evening out?’”

Schmidt said although the recent sub-zero temperatures have made going out less enjoyable, it’ll start to warm up soon.

“I think I’ll continue to go out,” Schmidt said. “I’m just really trying to get as much of the college experience as possible with COVID and the pandemic and everything, and it’s hard to do that when I’m just confined to my room all the time.”