WMU News

For grounds crew, it's 'snow' joke when two feet of snow and blizzard-force winds hit campus roads

January 8, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- If you think removing snow from your front walk this week was a chore, consider the 39 miles of walkways campus grounds crews had to tackle in the aftermath of last weekend's blizzard.

After a storm that blanketed the area with more than two feet of snow and shut the University for two days, campus grounds crews have their annual snow and ice removal process down to a science.

It began Friday afternoon, Jan. 1, with the first hints of the big storm that was to come, and by Saturday, the University's 47-member grounds crew was on rotating 12-hour shifts that would continue through Tuesday, Jan. 5, so the University could open Wednesday, Jan .6.

"Our crews have done a fabulous job under some of the most difficult conditions we've had in years," said Paul MacNellis, landscape services, of the Blizzard of '99. Nobody could have asked for more dedication."

President Elson S. Floyd decided by noon Sunday, Jan. 3, that the University would be closed Monday, Jan. 4. By 10:30 a.m. Monday the decision was made to close again Tuesday, Jan. 5. It was not the first time WMU would be closed for two days in a row, but it is unusual.

"The safety of our students, faculty and staff is the paramount concern," Floyd said. "The issue was magnified because it was the beginning of a semester, when many of our students as well as a number of faculty and staff members would be traveling from across the state and around the region."

The quantity of snow was almost overwhelming, MacNellis said.

"It's only the first storm of the year and already we've used up all of our snow storage capacity in the corners of parking lots," he explained. "Ordinarily, this would not occur before the middle of February."

Excess snow must be taken by front-end loader to lawns located near many of the lots so that any new snow can be pushed into the northwest or southwest corners of lots.

MacNellis said the snow was not the only problem. Under such heavy use, equipment breaks down with considerable regularity. The University's four mechanics worked as much as 24 hours at a time to make repairs and keep the equipment running.

"I don't think we could have done it without them," MacNellis said.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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