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Facilities management keeps Grounds safe amidst heavy snow

The University’s Facilities Management team has worked to salt the roads and deice Grounds

During Monday’s snowfall, when classes were not yet in session but many students had arrived on campus for IFC and ISC recruitment, Facilities Management staff focused on providing access to dining facilities rather than lecture halls.
During Monday’s snowfall, when classes were not yet in session but many students had arrived on campus for IFC and ISC recruitment, Facilities Management staff focused on providing access to dining facilities rather than lecture halls.

The University’s Facilities Management team mobilized plows, snow-blowers and deicing materials Jan. 15 in response to a snowstorm. The storm brought 3.6 inches of snow, more than any other snowfall within the past year.

Dan Shantler, Facilities Management systems control manager, said preparation for snow begins at least 72 hours in advance of the weather itself. The University’s Severe Weather Assessment Team often begins the process, and then Facilities Management works to plan for snow management and ensures that the plows, snow-blowers, and other tools are all in working condition.

“We have to make sure that we have staff that’s going to be available, that we have tested all of our equipment,” Shantler said. “[We] take care of any maintenance needs of that equipment so that we can make sure that we’re working efficiently and effectively.”

To counteract ice and snow, Facilities Management uses rock salt and magnesium chloride on sidewalks and roads, which function to lower the freezing point of water and help limit iciness. A combination of salt and sand provides traction for vehicles. For the University’s parking garages and historic pavements, a specialty deicer — the same kind that is used on airplanes — is used in order to prevent corrosion. 

According to Richard Hopkins, Facilities Management associate director of Grounds, Facilities Management has on hand at least 100 tons of salt, 150 tons of a sand-salt mix, 18 tons of magnesium chloride and five tons of the specialty deicer. The stock has to remain replenished after every weather incident to ensure that the University is prepared.

“We’re already in the process of restocking our pile now from Tuesday, anticipating snow and whatever might be coming in the future,” Hopkins said.

Long term planning for inclement weather can start even earlier in the year, as Facilities Management reviews its Snow and Ice Control Plan annually ahead of the winter season, according to Shantler. In order to execute an efficient and organized response, Facilities Management maps out high and low priority areas and designates which members of the team are responsible for certain zones. 

Hopkins said that Facilities Management determines its priorities for deicing and snow removal based on the University’s needs on the days when the University community experiences inclement weather. 

During the Jan. 15 snowfall, when classes were not yet in session but many students had arrived on campus for Inter-Fraternity Council and Inter-Sorority Council recruitment, Hopkins said that Facilities Management staff focused on providing access to dining facilities rather than lecture halls.

Facilities Management also works with the city of Charlottesville to ensure that the University’s Medical Center remains accessible to the public, regardless of the University’s level of function on a given day, Hopkins said. While Facilities Management clears the areas on Grounds, the city is responsible for the surrounding roads like Jefferson Park Avenue, Main Street, and University Avenue.

“What are the priorities of that day, and how do we meet the needs of the students and the Medical Center?” Hopkins said. “We also [have a] big responsibility… to the [Charlottesville] community, which [means] access to health.”

These preparations allow Facilities Management to manage snow effectively even in cases where the snowfall cannot be predicted with complete accuracy. Hopkins said that last week’s snowfall somewhat exceeded their expectations in terms of accumulation, but that Facilities Management still had the staff, equipment and materials on hand necessary to clear Grounds.

Charlottesville experienced another snowstorm Friday, although the snowfall was much more brief. Though no snow is forecasted in the coming week, temperatures will continue to dip below freezing most nights, so ice remains a concern.

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