Posted February 12, 2010

Facilities staff moves mountains to keep Temple running

While Temple students, faculty and staff enjoyed an unheard-of two snow days last week, Temple’s facilities crews were in high gear cleaning up walloping back-to-back snowstorms that dumped almost 16 inches on top of 28 inches from the weekend before. It took a herculean effort by grounds staff, drivers and housekeeping that continued non-stop even as blizzard conditions struck on Wednesday.

“We have a very detailed snow schedule with routes and assignments for each piece of equipment. Everyone knows exactly what they are required to do,” said Tom DiNardo, director of facilities.

According to DiNardo, who like his staff, was at work while Temple was closed, a 16-member grounds crew plowed the campus’ malls, sidewalks and walkways, and 15 drivers cleared curbs, service drives and loading docks. Meanwhile, 73 housekeeping staff members, led by Ginny Arnsberger, director of housekeeping, made sure the entrances to every building, including steps and ramps, were clear.

The crews had to work all day Wednesday in blizzard conditions to clean as much as possible in case there were classes on Thursday. It was a welcome break when classes were cancelled for a second day as it provided extra time to fine tune everything and move some of the mountainous piles of snow.

To get a sense of the scale of such an enormous undertaking consider that there are 127 buildings on Temple’s 105 acres. Crews used 22,000 pounds of ice melt during the weekend storm, followed by approximately 28,000 pounds during the midweek storm.

What’s more, several factors conspired to make it an especially tough job: the two feet of snow already on the ground; the wetness and heaviness of the new precipitation; plus the length of the storm and the high winds.

The first goal was to open up the areas where students were going to be. Though classes were cancelled, the Johnson and Hardwick cafeteria, the TECH center, the IBC student recreation center, Paley Library and the student pavilion were open. Clearing walkways and access routes to those came first.

The next priority was all walks, malls, building entrances and loading docks.  For some time now, Temple has also helped to plow several of our community’s churches and neighborhoods during snowstorms.

"It was the most difficult storm I’ve experienced because we still had a lot of snow around from the weekend. Also, this was a wetter snow and we ended up with two or three inches of packed snow and ice to remove,” said Glenn Eck, acting superintendent of grounds.

While half a dozen facilities staff ended up sleeping over at Temple on Wednesday night, DiNardo explained that most of the staff have worked through previous snow storms and network among themselves to make transportation arrangements. For them, it’s all a part of the job.

Michael Williams has been with Temple’s grounds crew for 10 years and takes it all in stride. The tractor plow operator was here the whole time, with quick trips home to rest. The most challenging part of the cleanup he said, was the lack of visibility, especially Wednesday when blizzard conditions created winds that gusted up to 50 mph.

"We ask a lot of our staff and they are very committed,” explained Jim Clemons, senior facilities specialist in charge of keeping all of the equipment running.

“Overall, morale was great and the folks got here and worked hard despite the fact that all of the staff had just spent the entire weekend here, some working 12 hour days and then having to start all over again three days later,” said DiNardo.

Snow Removal at Temple University
Ryan S. Brandenberg / Temple University
A tractor plow operated by Michael Williams clears snow drifts on Polett Walk, on Main Campus. Williams, who has been with Temple for 10 years, was among the members of Temple’s grounds crew and housekeeping staff who remained on campus throughout the storm to clear the way for students, faculty and staff to return.
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Snowbound residents chill out around campus

The last time Temple cancelled classes due to snow was 1996. Since that time, the university has built three new residence halls, where 5,200 students now reside. That’s not counting the additional 5,000 or so students living nearby in off-campus housing.

Those facts could suggest that the snow storm of 2010 created a lot more work for those working behind the scenes in residence life. Not so.

“For us, it was business as usual,” said Kevin Williams, associate director of residential life. “We treated it like a weekend.”

The storm didn’t require extra planning or preparation because Temple already had the essential live-in staff in place to handle the situation, round the clock, if necessary. That included 12 resident directors, who are master’s level professional university staff; 11 resident coordinators, who are graduate students; and 114 resident assistants, who are undergraduate students.

“All we had to do differently was make sure we communicated the conditions of the storm and information about campus to the students. We did that through e-mail,” said Williams.

The students didn’t have any trouble keeping themselves busy. They carried on with plans for a Red Cross Blood Drive and a Fundraiser for Haiti and took advantage of the pool tables and fitness centers housed in each of the residence halls. As one might expect, there was a lot of television watching and video game playing.

And, said Williams, “there were a lot of snowball fights and just hanging out in the snow.”

—Kim Fischer

Sodexho generously provided free lunch to the facilities employees at the Johnson and Hardwick cafeteria.

And even after classes resumed on Friday, the work was not over. Once an initial clean-up is done, crews have to continue to work on widening the walkways, pushing back the snow, moving the mountains of plowed snow and taking care of ice patches that form.

The “snowpocolypse of 2010” and its clean-up is definitely one for the record books. The last time Temple closed was for one day in 1996 after a mere one-day storm that brought 30 inches of snow.