NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – Inclement weather and new CDC guidelines are throwing the University of Oklahoma a couple of curveballs ahead of graduation ceremonies this weekend.
OU has a meteorologist on staff, Kevin Kloesel, who ensures outdoor events are conducted safely. He said those events are moved all the time as a result of changing weather.
“You have to have a weather plan. You just never know,” Kloesel said.
There’s a lot of excitement surrounding this year’s graduation and pressure for it to go well, because it includes many students who did not have the chance to win last year.
“I really wanted to be this day, I wanted to be present, I wanted to share with my family, friends,” said Shajid Islam, a PhD graduate in electrical and computer engineering. He graduated last year, but it was virtual. “I so wanted to do that and this is the day. I’m here and I’m going to enjoy it to its fullest.”
Debra Higgs and her family traveled all the way from California to watch her son, Cody, receive the doctorate he should have received last year.
She said it was important to her to watch him walk across the stage.
“He’s the only son I have, first one in the family to graduate from a university, so I’m very proud,” Higgs said.
Kloesel recommended the school move up Saturday night’s ceremony from 6:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. It’s the biggest of the weekend with 1,500 graduates, and storms are expected in the evening.
“We wanted to make sure that we moved it early enough so that everybody could have the exact same experience and be able to safely leave the stadium, go back to their cars, their shuttle buses, or whatever the case may be so that they’re not standing outside in storms,” Kloesel said.
More than rain, he wants to make sure everyone is safe from potential harm, like lightening.
It’s not the only safety precaution OU is taking.
Even though the CDC lifted social distancing and mask recommendations for those vaccinated, OU is maintaining its previous COVID safety plan for the ceremonies.
This is in part because making big last minute logistical changes to a ceremony that took months to plan and execute is nearly impossible.
But OU officials also said they took into consideration the fact that the majority of Oklahomans are still not vaccinated.