Record Snowfalls Blanket Campus
By Daniel Diner '14, Contributing Writer
According to climatologist Michael Rawlins of UMass this past month brought more snow with it than any month in the last 118 years, making it one of the whitest Januaries in Massachusetts state history.

The staggering 39.9 inches Amherst received in January, along with the 10 inches brought so far by February, are cumulatively making this winter a very tough season for students, faculty and staff alike.

Members of the community face challenges ranging from having to clear out mounds of snow in freezing conditions to just getting around from class to class without falling. Despite pooling in all of its available resources to preserve campus safety amidst the snow and ice, the College has at times been physically unable to deal with all the challenges.

The storms have plummeted the Pioneer Valley one after the other, leaving very little time for recovery. The signs on campus are evident: quads are covered by several feet of snow, pathways are slippery and irregular and snowfalls are frequent. The snow has disrupted classes and forced resources to be concentrated on only the necessities.

“I had my class at UMass cancelled,” said senior José Espinosa.

The staff has had the unique and difficult challenge of both continuing the college’s standard operations and of clearing up the snow to ensure both the safety and transportation of the Amherst community. Facilities has been working literally night and day, during and after storms to clear up the pathways so that students can use them safely. Often this requires long overtime hours from the frontline snow staff. But even this is not always enough. If the storm is too overwhelming for just the frontline staff, as has been the case more than once this winter, additional resources from the Facilities Department have to be called in.

“Once we have the custodians, groundskeepers as well as some of the tradesmen working the snow, we have upwards of 70 people involved in the recovery effort,” said Jim Brassord, Director of Facilities.

Facilities is not the only department to have been put under increased strain. Every other section of the College has had increased concerns of staff members being unable to come to work due to inclement weather. It must also be taken into account that in the most severe storms, when the College is reported closed, it is not actually “closed.” The dorms stay open, as do vital College services such as Valentine Dining Hall and Campus Police. Charley Thompson, Director of Dining Services, said that it can be a real challenge for the dining hall to stay open during these times.

“I live an hour away so I was up at three to get an early start,” Charley said, referring to a particularly harsh storm this winter.

No matter how challenging the conditions, Facilities and the rest of the campus staff are doing everything in their power to keep the College safe and operating.

“I encourage individuals who see unsafe conditions to bring them to the attention of campus police,” Brassord said.

Issue 14, Submitted 2011-02-09 02:25:38