WKU makes plans to combat winter weather

Graphic design professor Hai Ri An walks to her car after leaving FAC on Feb. 9th, 2011. WKU’s recent five day closure due to snow has made the university reconsider it’s winter weather protocol. 

Nicole Ziege

WKU’s Bowling Green campus was closed for five consecutive days after snow fell over the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. weekend and prevented the university from opening Friday, Jan. 12 and Tuesday, Jan. 16.

WKU students rejoiced on Friday to find a school cancellation alert on their phones due to 2½ inches of snow in Bowling Green and surrounding areas. Bowling Green received about five inches of snow Monday, Chief Facilities Officer Bryan Russell said, which kept WKU closed on Tuesday.

In preparation for potential winter weather, WKU developed a “snow plan.” Russell said several months ago he reviewed the snow plan with facilities management and Parking and Transportation and updated it.

“What I would like to say is that each snow event is unique and different,” Russell said. “Depending on the amount of snow that we will get, plus the temperature after the event, [that] has a huge bearing on how we can react.” 

For the buildings, Russell said WKU has an energy policy that has “occupied” and “unoccupied” conditions of the buildings, which is done through an automated system. The temperatures are lowered and raised to conserve energy as part of the campus’ sustainability plan and pursuant to that energy policy, he said. 

“We have a plan in place where even during the breaks when most people are gone … we have people walking the buildings to make sure that we capture some of the things that fail during cold weather, [such as] frozen pipes,” Russell said. 

Russell said there are 29 miles of sidewalks around campus, which do not include the parking lots and “all the other things that come along with snow removal.” He said there are 25 employees designated for removing snow from those sidewalks and parking lots. 

“We have a plan that says that we can’t clean all 29 miles of sidewalks, so each building has a designated door that we make safe pathways to those facilities,” Russell said.

Russell said the employees were able to clear the snow that kept the university closed Friday, but then more snow fell Monday.

“We had the snow event, we came in, we cleared and got things cleaned up by Monday, thinking everything was going to be okay,” Russell said. “All of a sudden, we got another five inches.”

Russell said the problem is people’s expectations. 

“People would like to see all the steps cleared, all the sidewalks cleared,” Russell said. “Well, you [have to] remember: we had them cleared by Monday, but then we didn’t get that snow until Monday night, so we wake up on Tuesday [and] we got five inches of snow.”

Russell said they deployed 60 tons of salt during the snow events on Friday and Monday. More than 30 of those tons were during the second snow event.

“They work really hard,” Russell said of the workers who removed the snow. “I think they did a great job.”

Russell said his number one priority was the students on campus. He said his “primary” areas of snow removal included the Downing Student Union, Preston Center, the parking structures and checking with special events taking place on campus to remove the snow around the event areas. Russell said he also worked with Parking and Transportation.

“We worked every day using the equipment that we have, clearing a little bit more every day,” Russell said.

Russell said once the primary areas were cleared, then the workers started expanding each day, “trying to capture the rest of the campus.”

“Our goal was to get things ready for the move-in on the 18th for our students,” Russell said.

Elmhurst, Indiana, sophomore Joe Pecoraro planned on driving down to campus on Friday, Jan. 12 but was unable to drive down until the next day because of the weather. Pecoraro said there was “still plenty of snow” when he moved in.

“WKU, and Bowling Green as a whole, does not plan well at all for winter weather,” Pecoraro said.

Taylorsville sophomore Josie Schultz drove down to campus on Wednesday, Jan. 17.

“The sidewalk to Southwest [Hall] was a little rough and so was the parking lot,” Schultz said. “Not bad, but there was definitely still ice.”

Nashville sophomore Austin Higgins said he drove to Bowling Green for desk training Tuesday, Jan. 16. 

“Once I got there, I was stuck in my dorm all week,” Higgins said.

News reporter Nicole Ziege can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow Nicole Ziege on Twitter at @nicoleziege.