MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The population of Morgantown and the surrounding region just doubled.
Not that anyone wasn’t expecting it — more than 28,000 students make their annual trek back to Morgantown every August.
“We’re at the beginning of the peak of the energy cycle for Morgantown,” Preston said. “The students move in this weekend. We’ll have the Fall Fest activities through the first of next week, starting class on the 15th, and the first full weekend with the students settling into their routines next weekend.”
Traffic back-ups will be, to put it bluntly, very common, according to Preston.
“The best advice is to listen and follow what’s going on,” he said. “Pay attention. There’s going to be a lot of people lost, because they don’t know Morgantown, they’re not familiar with the area. My experience is GPS lies.”
The traffic will be two-fold — partly attributed to a significant increase in students and some parents, but also due to changing traffic patterns for those moving into dorms in the downtown and Evansdale areas.
“Patience is probably the number one thing,” Preston said. “There’s no need getting angry. There’s no need getting in a hurry, because this time of year we have congestion. Nobody gets to where they want to go as fast as they want to get to because of that congestion. It is part of the natural process of things. Students return, congestion happens.”
Once move-in hours conclude Saturday afternoon, Preston said his officers will be switching gears.
“We’re going to be looking for overcrowding,” he said. “We’re going to be looking for the nuisance noise. Anybody who is doing house parties had best understand that we’re not there to stop them from enjoying coming back to school, but we will be focusing on safety.”
Preston said safety emphasis includes watching for potential fights in lines downtown and parties that may include people on the roofs of buildings.
This year, he said they are even better prepared for handling those students who have consumed a little too much, enjoying their first tastes of freedom.
“They will either be taken to the intox shelter until we can find someone responsible to take care of them,” Preston said. “They will be taken to the hospital for treatment because their medical impairment puts them in a crisis where they are so impaired they can no longer take care of themselves.”
Preston said that treatment will be reserved only for those students who have merely had too much to drink. Those committing criminal acts, regardless of intoxication level, will still be dealt with by law enforcement.
“Just intoxicated, no other criminal violations — just intoxicated,” he said.
Preston estimated, conservatively, calls for service for the Morgantown Police Department double from the last weekend of summer break compared to the first weekend of a new school year.
FallFest is scheduled for Tuesday night.