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A grounds crew member is brushing the snow off of the sidewalk

PFW cold weather crew always ready to battle snow

Most folks—especially elementary school students—look at winter forecasts predicting imminent snowfall with fingers crossed and hopes for a day at home, even if it includes some sort of remote work. The Purdue University Fort Wayne facilities management grounds crew knows these can be their busiest days of the year, likely starting around 3 or 4 a.m.

Using plows, salt spreaders, shovels, and their backs, the 13-member team sometimes starts working before the snow stops to make sidewalks, parking lots, and roads safe so everyone else can get to campus. All building mechanics are also responsible for the areas adjacent to their assigned entryways, said Greg Justice, associate vice chancellor of facilities management.

Though there were about two inches of snow on the ground when everyone woke up Monday morning, the entryways and sidewalks were already salted and taken care of by the time students, faculty, and staff arrived for early classes. The job gets done in shifts so everyone else can take it for granted.

“We try not to work through the night because everyone needs a break, but there again, it depends on the storm type,” said Tad Smith, director of grounds operation. 

Smith said his crew members use around 180 tons of salt each winter, including more than 2,000 50-pound bags for the sidewalks. 

One tidbit is that the upper floors of the parking garages are sometimes closed after significant snow because they are not covered.

Each year PFW reviews and publishes an adverse weather advisory to alert everyone on campus of how the university reacts to scheduling in regard to weather conditions. Unless there is a county-wide declared weather emergency, PFW does not have school delays and rarely closes campus because of weather. Everyone is to assume classes are happening on schedule, though possibly remotely. 

When the campus is closed, announcements will be made by 6 a.m. for daytime classes and 3 p.m. for evening classes. Follow the University Emergency Notification System with text, voice, and email messages through the RAVE alert system, the Guardian system, the university home page, or the official university Facebook and Twitter accounts. Local media outlets are another option.

During such a snow or ice storm, parking is restricted on campus as posted, and all but essential employees are asked to work from home.