By Samantha Biastre
With the weather being so unpredictable these past few weeks, the facilities department has been working overtime to make sure that the sidewalks and roadways on campus have been clear in order to keep students and faculty safe.
From Jan. 22-24, winter storm Jonas pummeled KU’s campus with 32 inches of snow this storm was dealt with very differently than any other snow storm that the facilities department has dealt with since the mid-nineties.
According to Will Meeker, assistant director of campus services, because this storm was so intense and the volume of the snow was very high, it was a great challenge for the department. They ended up running out of places to put all of the snow, and the equipment could only move all of the snow so far.
During the winter months of Nov.-April, the facilities department monitors the weather on a daily basis. “When a storm enters the forecast, often a week or more out, we generally pick up the frequency of monitoring, and are looking at multiple forecasts several times a day,” said Meeker.
The department spent over a week removing the snow, widening the sidewalks, digging out fire hydrants and other tasks the generally occur a short time after snow fall has ended.
There are currently 17 employees that make up the “snow crew”. These are the employees that plow the parking lots and roadways on campus and use the equipment to clear the roadways and sidewalks. This group consists of the usual landscape and logistics employees and the automotive garage employees.
The electrical, mechanical and operations shop employees help and the university’s building custodians help to keep the entrances and steps clear to the buildings. “It is hard to put an exact number on our total participation in any one storm, because it varies, and just about everybody pitches in,” said Meeker.
The custodians focus mainly on the building entrances that they are assigned to and the “snow crew” then proceeds to follow a plan that follows the campuses’ Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) map. Actual campus maps have been developed that show the priorities of the snow removal.
The top three priorities include, major roadways and South Dining Hall, the ADA route, and major parking lots which include A, B and C parking lots. The top three priority areas are cleared simultaneously to help with effective snow removal.
The facilities department monitors several weather outlets including, Weather Underground, Weather.com, Accu-Weather, the National Weather Service and Intellicast. They try to determine an average forecast from the various outlets and then develop their plan of action for snow removal from there. When the storm is approaching the department tries to put their plan into effect about 12 hours before the snow and ice arrives in the area.