Snow started falling at 6:30 on Wednesday night, but the preparations made by Will Hairston, head of EMU’s ground crew, had begun hours before. Not having the resources or equipment of a larger school meant that he had to plan ahead. The school lined up equipment rentals through Four Seasons Equipment in Harrisonburg and then bring the rentals to campus before snow made travel dangerous.
The physical plant was also worries about obtaining sufficient supplies to effectively clean up after the storm. Record snow fall nationwide had resulted in shortages of ice melt products. Ice melt is needed to make sure that cleared sidewalks and streets don’t simply become sheets of snow-covered ice.In addition, grounds crew’s seasonal work of planting and mulching in preparation for spring had to be shut down in anticipation of the storm. In the hours before the first snowflakes fell the campus seemed to withdraw into itself, quietly waiting for the storm to begin.
At 6:30p.m., Hairston was informed that snow had begun falling, and by 8:30p.m. Hairston was beginning to plow the streets around campus. He would not get another chance to rest until new grounds crew employees arrived at 4:00 a.m.The principle behind this all night plowing is one of Hairston’s basic rules when dealing with snow: “Don’t let more than four inches accumulate because then you start to run into logistical problems with the weight and volume of the snow.”
Apart from clearing campus parking lots, the grounds crew had to focus on roadways around campus to keep transportation lanes open. According to Hairston, once snow builds up in the parking lots it becomes extremely difficult to clear without trapping cars. When the the snow had tapered off, grounds crew was still not done working.
There are only three full time workers on grounds crew, but getting the snow cleared required greater numbers. Members of physical plant worked to clear the streets and sidewalks on campus for classes to resume on Friday. Hairston said, “we try to keep the watershed in mind, we push it into the grass instead of just letting it melt on pavement and run straight into the storm sewers.”
When the winds finally died down to the point where shoveling was feasible again, work study students, along with full time grounds crew workers, managed to clear sidewalks. Due to all this work, streets and sidewalks were cleared by Thursday afternoon, and classes resumed at 11:40 on Friday morning.
-David Yoder, Co-Editor In Chief; photo, Taylor Waidelich