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Icy Woes: Facing The Brutal Winter at Juniata

(Posted February 14, 2013)

As the winter months continue to bring cold weather and snow to central Pennsylvania, facilities workers on campus are required to maintain safe conditions for students. Already, storms have brought ice that has gripped the paths and stairways throughout campus, creating treacherous walking conditions. The nearly impossible duty of keeping these areas secure lies on the shoulders of Jeff Meadows, grounds supervisor for Juniata, and his crew. Meadows shared the process of preparing for, and dealing with ice, as well places to look out for.


Q: Can you explain the process of preparing for ice on campus?

That is not an easy question to answer; all snow and ice events are different. Lots of factors come in to play such as time of arrival of the storm, what events are going on, whether or not it is a weekday or weekend, how long the storm is expected to last, what is the forecast for after the storm, along with some other factors. In general if the timing is right, we will pre-treat steps and sidewalks, especially the brick surfaces because they tend to freeze first. This can be a solid ice melt material or a liquid material. Other than that we wait until the precipitation starts and then begin applying ice melt materials to walks and anti-skid materials to roadways. If there is an imminent storm forecasted, there is an emergency team called together to make plans. This team consists of representatives from Facilities, Public Safety, Sodexo Services, Residential Life, Athletics, the President's Office, and the Dean of Students Office.


Q: If ice becomes a problem, like it did last week, how do these processes change? When is it "too icy" for students to go to class?

The process never really changes when ice begins to be a problem; we just continue to work to make the campus safe. If we seem like we are not making any headway in our efforts and we determine that conditions are not safe then we have some prompt discussions about delaying or cancelling classes. These conversations can occur at any time day or night.


Q: How difficult is it to measure the severity of ice before it occurs?

Extremely difficult, I look at as many forecasts as I can and keep an eye on the radar and then try to make an informed decision about what will occur and what is actually occurring during a storm.


Q: Apparently three spots are notoriously icy on campus: behind Ellis, the East path closest to the tennis courts, Cloister roof? Would you agree? Can you explain why?

These, along with a few more, basically any area that is on the north side of a building, structure or trees is a problem area. The front of von-Liebig is another problem area for ice. These areas receive little or no sunlight in the winter months and therefore are always colder. Cloister patio is a problem area due to not only being on the north side of the building but also because the roof is very steep but also the roof has slate shingles that don't have the ability to hold snow and ice. Roofs that are on the north face also tend to melt slowly and then re-freeze each night, which cause icicles to form.


Q: Where else on campus should students be aware of?

In addition to the areas mentioned above, the dock area at Ellis Hall, behind Good Hall, 19th street behind Halbritter , the 18th street walkway between Lesher and Kennedy Sports and Rec., the brick walk on the north side of Founder's Hall and basically anywhere on the north side of buildings. When in doubt, people should walk in the grass along the edge of a walk.


Q: Compared to past years, how does this year measure up? Can you touch on a time when the ice was much worse?

I would say that this is shaping up to be an average year as far as snow and ice amounts, in my ten years at Juniata the worst years by far were the winters of 2003-2004 and 2009-2010. However, this is only the first week of February and I don't stop worrying about snow until the end of March. Some of our biggest snows have come at the end of March.



-Seth Ruggiero '14 Juniata Online Journalist

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.