Tufts works overtime to clear snow, feed students
Published: Monday, February 11, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 11, 2013 03:02
The two−plus feet of snowfall Tufts faced this weekend, courtesy of Winter Storm Nemo, put the Tufts Department of Facilities Services, Emergency Management and Dining Services into full gear so campus could function and recover from the blizzard. The university began to prepare for the storm last Wednesday and reopened today at close−to−full capacity.
“We will probably be at 85 to 90 percent of full capacity [Monday], excluding a few walkways that you just can’t get to, but driving around the campus right now, it is in pretty good shape,” Director of Facilities Services Bob Burns said.
All academic buildings were closed from Friday to Sunday, and specific buildings—the Mayer Campus Center, Tisch Library and the Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center—re−opened partway through the day yesterday.
The recovery effort has been a team project of many Tufts departments, according to Burns.
“It is important to recognize that a lot of people in a lot of departments, faculty and staff, did a really tremendous job to get through this major snowfall,” he said.
Director of Emergency Management Geoffrey Bartlett said the university began to track the storm as a serious event on Wednesday.
“My office monitored weather forecasts and participated in conference calls conducted by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and the National Weather Service (NWS) to stay abreast of information from civil authorities and share relevant details with university administrators,” Bartlett said.
According to Bartlett, before the storm hit, Emergency Management began preparing the services that would need to be put into effect during the storm by fueling vehicles, setting up plows and planning to provide food throughout the weekend without deliveries.
Many employees worked long hours through the night, according to Burns.
“A lot of [employees] slept in buildings on campus or had vehicles in which they could get home and get back,” Burns said. “Fortunately, a lot of the members of the staff live not too far away, so with our four−wheel−drive vehicles they were able to get here and get back.”
Tufts also received assistance from UGL Unico (UGL) employees who haveworked to shovel stairways, according to Burns.
Burns noted that a predicted rainstorm may slow the recovery process.
“It is supposed to rain Monday or Tuesday, which will add a lot of weight to the snow,” he said. “We are trying to get a lot of it out of here by hiring contractors to haul it off and just get it away from campus.”
Burns said he was glad the blizzard did not occur in the middle of the school week.
“I think we were fortunate that the storm was a Friday afternoon event and that school was closed,” he said. “When something like that happens and people are gone, we can get to a lot of walkways, and we can get to parking lots.”
Burns said he does not know at this time if Facilities has gone over its snow removal budget.
Although Dewick−MacPhie and Carmichael Dining Halls remained open to students, retail food facilities, including those at the Mayer Campus Center, Tower Cafe and others, were closed.
According to Director of Dining and Business Services Patti Klos, Tufts Dining Services must be prepared for emergencies, as there are around 3,200 students who rely on the university for food.
“When we have emergency weather situations, the first thing we have to consider is that many students are in residence, so many of [them] rely on us,” she said.
Because of advance weather forecasts, the university was able to order extra supplies before the blizzard, according to Klos.
“We made plans on Thursday anticipating that we were going to have a big storm,” she said. “We brought in food on Friday rather than Saturday, and our managers ordered extra food.”
While extra food was on hand, the state−imposed driving ban and a shuttered public transportation system impacted workers, Klos said. However, according to Klos, the dining halls were able to manage without their full rosters of staff.
“We identify other employees who don’t necessarily work [at a dining hall] but are willing to come in because they live nearby,” she said. “We also turn to our student employees to help us out.”
Some employees at Dewick and Carmichael even brought sleeping bags and spent the night at the university, according to Klos.
“In some cases, it’s peace of mind for them,” Klos said. She added that Carmichael Unit Manager Dave Kelley slept over, as did some of his staff.”
Overall, Klos said Dining Services was well−prepared to handle the storm, and she commended the dining workers for their excellent work.
Bartlett said smooth recovery from the blizzard is thanks to the dedication of experienced employees in all the departments that were involved with storm management.
“Tufts is fortunate to have many dedicated, long−term employees who have been facing New England weather for years,” he said. “While this was certainly a historic weather event, the team applied their experience to respond to this storm.”
Bartlett also encourages students to continue exercising caution when walking around campus.
“Give yourself extra time getting to and from class,” he said. “Please also yield to plows and snow removal equipment working on campus, to help them to clear snow safely and efficiently.” Daniel Gottfried and Justin Rheingold contributed reporting to this article.