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Epic storm is “snow problem” for TU

Snow plow at workWhen a monster snowstorm descended on campus, a special group of employees fought back—and won.

They’re the people who stayed on duty when Towson University closed in the aftermath of the historic January 22-23 blizzard: TU’s grounds, maintenance, auto shop, trades shops, housekeeping and public-safety staff, plus a snow-removal contractor.

Warren Riefner, Facilities Management’s director of operations and maintenance, says TU’s Snow Incident Plan became operational at 11:32 a.m. on January 21, based on forecasts from the university’s meteorological consultants. The plan, which addresses a variety of scenarios, provides for the efficient distribution of campus resources during and after a major storm.

Riefner notes that “the magnitude and duration of this event—which blanketed the area with 30 inches of snow—required marshalling a large workforce and oversized construction equipment.”

He adds that many workers stayed on the job for days, battling 50 mph gusts and temperatures in the teens. Some bunked overnight in campus offices and shops; others doubled up in rooms at the nearby TU Marriott.

According to Riefner, the cost of clearing TU’s 329-acre campus is about $25,000 per inch for a snow event of this magnitude. (Contrast that with the $2.5 million per inch of snow New York City spent in FY15.)

Bob Keenan, TU’s landscape services supervisor, was key to the operation’s success, Riefner says, adding that “Bob reported on January 22 and didn’t return home until the evening of Thursday, January 28. He was the quarterback who managed every detail of the storm throughout its duration.”

Riefner and his crew are justifiably proud of their role in readying the campus for a delayed move-in and start of spring classes. But a compliment from the Baltimore County Fire Marshal’s Office emphasized the community spirit that TU workers brought to their jobs.

“The marshal’s office wanted to thank us for uncovering fire hydrants,” Riefner said. “Some people don’t think about that when they’re moving snow, but firefighters really appreciate the extra effort.”

The university’s successful snow-clearing efforts quickly captured the attention, and admiration, of newly arrived president Kim Schatzel.

“Facilities Team & DPS Officers doing great job under tough conditions so  is ready 4 move-in. Big TU THXS 4 all you do!” Schatzel tweeted on Sunday, Jan. 24.

TU’s ‘Snowzilla’ arsenal included:

  • 96 shovels
  • 40 tons of salt
  • 850 gallons of brine
  • 20 pallets of magnesium chloride
  • 60 TU staff members, ABM employees (if needed)
  • 36 ice choppers
  • 18 de-icer spreaders
  • 22 walk-behind snowblowers
  • 10 tractors (including two backhoes)
  • 8 truck-mounted plows