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(February 8, 2001, Gazette)

Armed for the weather

Memorial’s St. John’s campusPhoto by Chris Hammond

Clear pathways greet walkers around Memorial’s St. John’s campus

Mary MacGillivrayBy Mary MacGillivray

Recently, a St. John’s man called the police, as he was alarmed to look outside and find that his car had vanished. When the police arrived, they discovered that his car was not missing after all. The car was simply covered in snow.

It has been said that this winter has been the roughest of its kind in 60 years. By mid-January, over 100,000 pounds of snow already had been dumped into St. John’s harbour in an effort to keep up with clearing away record snowfalls. As a perfectly white blanket on trees, houses, and simply everything, a prolonged supply of snow can be stunning. As an icy barricade that prevents the opening of front doors in the morning without an industrial sized blowtorch, snow can be a little pesky.

Keeping up with snow removal in marathon mode is hard work. Have you ever noticed the excellent job that is being done here at Memorial in terms of carving the buildings out of their snowy beds and dusting off the campus each and every day?

Aidan Kiernan, associate director of Facilities Management, is very proud of the quality of work undertaken by a team of 24 men and women who are striving to keep up with the amazing amount of snow that has fallen this winter. Working at such a pace makes it hard to get enough rest. These people have been working overtime and they are tired. Heavy snowfall is not something that Mr. Kiernan and his team take lightly.

When the weather outside is frightful, Memorial has the assistance of a team of unsung heroes. On the St. John’s campus, 20 dedicated men and women work to provide safe passageways for us all. During snowstorms that relentlessly dump more and more of the white stuff, these folks are working essentially around the clock. The clearing of footpaths alone begins on campus at 4 a.m. during stormy weather. The after-hours clearing of parking lots usually begins at midnight.

One result of working through the night and on weekends for nearly a month is that Hatcher Field, by Paton College, is full of snow and the team is worn out. Lately they have been dumping excess snow behind the Aquarena. Already this winter, a whopping $70,000 worth of salt has been distributed about the St. John’s campus, including the area surrounding the Health Sciences Centre. This is usually enough to last the whole winter. Salt is chosen instead of sand because salt creates a lot less mess. There is less clean up in the spring and less dirt to be tracked into the buildings.

Using mainly heavy equipment such as loaders, plows, graders, and salt trucks, these employees carefully set about widening back campus roads. Every door has to be dug out, and other entranceways and sidewalks cleared. Memorial owns little snow blowers and little plows, but hires a contractor each winter for the use of heavy equipment, to avoid wasting a lot of money by having such expensive equipment sitting around all year until winter.

In accordance with fire safety regulations, each and every fire hydrant on campus must be clear from the obstruction of snow also. When, as they certainly have been this winter, they are completely buried by snow, a marking system helps to locate them.

A watchful eye is also kept on any roofs that may cause problems as they are given more than a dollop of snow. Mr. Kiernan is happy to report that there have not been any major troubles with campus roofing to date. The beautiful and sometimes frightening stalactites that dangle precariously from eaves are also not to be ignored. These giant icicles look enough like lightning bolts to suggest that they could provide quite a headache.

When April and May come along, Mr. Kiernan and his team will be turning their efforts towards perking up the grounds so that the spring can work its magic, trading icy snowballs for fiery snapdragons.

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