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November 17,


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Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

Facilities prepares for winter weather

Dan Schied, manager of horticulture and grounds, has directed maintenance and care of University grounds for the past 10 years. As manager, Schied has overseen such recently completed projects as the installation of Dandelion Square and the planting of a native plant garden between Burton and Crosby Halls and of a hosta garden between Strong Auditorium and Lattimore Hall as well as the creation of a new landscape design for Wallis Hall.


In a recent interview, Schied discussed ways his department is busy preparing for what can be one of the most challenging aspects of the job: keeping the roads, parking lots, and walkways clear of snow and ice during the winter months.

As part of Facilities and Services, what responsibilities does the grounds department oversee?

The University grounds team is responsible for horticultural care at the University as well as snow removal for over 6 million square feet of paved surfaces that include the Medical Center, River Campus, South Campus, Mt. Hope properties, and the Memorial Art Gallery. During winter months that translates to removing more than 500,000 cubic feet of snow for every inch that falls--enough to fill 10 cubic-yard dump trucks parked bumper to bumper stretching 9.25 miles. And that's just for one inch of snow that can fall in less than an hour.

What types of activities are involved in preparing for winter?

Right now we're putting plants to bed and taking care of other maintenance projects such as pruning, taking out planting beds, cutting back perennials, taking out annuals, turf care, and top-dressing the athletic fields.

At the same time we're preparing our equipment for snow and ice removal and ordering de-icing compounds. Our annual goal is to have the equipment 50 percent ready by the end of October and 100 percent ready by November 15. Right now, there's no question; if it snows, we're ready to go.

Last winter was one of the coldest and snowiest the Rochester area has experienced in many years. What was the biggest challenge for the snow removal teams last year?

There were 179 days between the first and last snowfalls of the past winter. So, definitely, it was a very long winter. Probably the biggest problem we had, in addition to fatigue from working such long hours, was the extended number of days of single-digit temperatures. In extreme cold, de-icing compounds are not as effective. In fact, many people will remember the hard-packed snow that developed on campus walkways last winter. That was because heat was not readily available from either the air or pavement to help the de-icing compounds create the solution necessary to turn ice into water.

Are you testing new products to find better ways to address snow and ice buildup?

We're always experimenting with new products, such as a compound called Magic, a by-product of the agricultural industry. Last year, this product gave us the ability to reduce our salt usage and lower the freezing point of snow below that of salt alone. We fully expect to continue our trials of this and other products this year.

What are some important things for those in the University community to be mindful of during the winter weather season?

The big thing I'd like people to be aware of with snow removal is that there are real people out there performing a real service under often unrelenting conditions during all hours of the day and night, including holidays. It can be long, tiring, and almost thankless work sometimes.

It's also important for people to know that if the snow starts falling after 3 a.m., it is very difficult to get areas plowed before 7 a.m., especially if the wind is blowing. Once faculty, staff, students, and visitors begin arriving on our campuses in the morning, we simply cannot be as effective due to increased traffic and safety concerns.

I encourage people to visit our Web site (, which is updated by 6 a.m. during snow events and includes a status report on road and parking lot conditions as well as local weather forecasts. They can also sign up to receive e-mail notifications from Facilities and Services regarding weather-related closures, ongoing projects, and other facilities news.

Other practical steps people can take to ensure their safety during winter and help us do our job more effectively is wear appropriate footwear for walking on slippery surfaces, park in spots that have already been plowed, and be aware of plows and other equipment when parking and driving. We also encourage people in the community to report any snow emergencies or removal problems to our hotline at x5-0000.

While our goal is to make sure no one is inconvenienced due to winter weather, it's simply not always possible, although our staff will continue to work hard to that end.

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