Weather woes bring safety concerns to U.


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Photo by Yingjie Hu |

Snow piled up on Morrell Street on the College Avenue campus, and other places on campus have been treacherous for the Rutgers community.


The total snowfall count for New Brunswick for this winter is 52.7 inches as of Monday, said David Robinson, a New Jersey State climatologist. This has posed safety and transportation issues for the entire Rutgers community.

Joseph Slezak, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior, criticized the University for their inappropriate campus closures this year.

As a commuter, Slezak was particularly affected by the storm on Feb. 3 when University President Robert L. Barchi did not order a campus closing until after classes had begun that day.

“I had already driven to campus, almost hitting a stop sign on the way,” Slezak said. “It’s irresponsible.”

Photo: Yingjie Hu

New Brunswick has recorded a snowfall count of 52.7 inches for this winter. The winter is being regareded as the sixth snowiest winter in the past 102 years.

Robinson said in an email statement that this winter ranks as the sixth snowiest winter of the past 102 years.

The past two winters have been relatively mild, he said, but the winters of 2009 to 2010 and 2010 to 2011 had similar snowfall totals.

“Three of the 10 snowiest winters of the past century have occurred in the past five years,” he said.

The personnel in the University Facilities and Capital Planning Department have been working tirelessly to maintain safe travel conditions, said Dianne Gravatt, director of Environmental Services and Grounds at Rutgers University, via email correspondence.

Before an anticipated storm, roads are sprayed with a vegetable-based brine solution that acts similarly to the salt used to melt snow and ice.

During the snowstorms, plows are frequently on the salted roads, she said.

“There have been several storms in which we have had staff working around the clock to keep the residents and staff safe, buses moving and dining halls open,” she said.

Gravatt acknowledged that the longer the temperatures remain below freezing, the more challenging it is to maintain the roads.

This season, the temperatures in New Brunswick have remained below freezing for as long as six consecutive days, Robinson said.

The temperature in New Brunswick has fluctuated widely this winter — the highest being 70 degrees and the lowest being negative one.

“Whether you look at this winter in terms of temperature fluctuations or snowfall, it has been one filled with extremes,” Robinson said. “A rather disruptive winter to be sure.”

The season’s abnormal weather has been difficult to deal with, Gravatt noted, but the facilities’ personnel have been working hard to maintain proper conditions.

“I want to say how proud I am of the response of our University Facilities and Capital Planning Operations group on all our campuses,” Gravatt said.

Their efforts have contributed to keeping the 36 miles of roads, 32 miles of sidewalks and more than 20,000 parking spaces safe, she said.

Jonathan Caverly, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, commended the University for its success in keeping the roads clear, but said the sidewalks have not been safe.

“There are a lot of people slipping everywhere,” Caverly said.

The walkway from the New Gibbons Hall to Hickman Hall on Douglass campus has been treacherous, said Stephanie van Oppen, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences first-year student.

“It’s a sheet of ice right now,” she said. “It’s like they haven’t done anything to it.”

Gravatt said all campuses have troublesome areas, mostly spots where the sun does not reach and therefore cannot aid in melting snow and ice.

The winter has also been fiscally challenging, but Gravatt said she is not worried about the cost of snow removal exceeding the budget.

“The University administration has always provided the financial support to maintain a safe environment for its constituents,” she said.

The salt shortage has been an extra challenge, Gravatt said, but the department has managed to obtain the necessary supplies.

The shortage in ice melting products is region-wide and the facilities staff had to be conservative with the available supplies.

“Facilities personnel respond to service calls as well as conduct daily inspections in an attempt to maintain safe paths of travel,” she said.

While the University streets are closely monitored and maintained during the winter months, Rutgers campuses have had to shut down due to the snowstorms.

Jack Molenaar, director of the Department of Transportation Services at Rutgers, said ticketing is lenient on days of inclement weather.

Molenaar said students often call the department to share their thoughts on the quality of snow removal in the parking lots and noted the difficulty the snow removal staff has had in clearing snow when vehicle owners do not move their cars.

Many students who park in lots overnight do not realize they are responsible for digging their cars out of the snow.

“The lanes get plowed and the owner is responsible for shoveling his car out,” he said. “If you own a vehicle, in the wintertime you should carry a shovel in your trunk.”

Robinson said after the snow has finished falling, flooding becomes a serious problem.

“Should the snow melt quickly, and especially if accompanied by heavy rainfall, there would be serious flooding of the Raritan River,” he said. “But that’s a worst-case scenario that everyone hopes can be avoided.”


By Melanie Groves

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