Last week, the Binghamton area received 31.3 inches of snowfall within a 24-hour period, courtesy of Winter Storm Stella. While students celebrated two consecutive days off from classes, Physical Facilities had all hands on deck, with 245 employees working to clear snow around campus.
Physical Facilities is responsible for maintaining 6.3 miles of roads, 3.5 miles of service drives, 23 miles of walks and 38.5 acres of parking on campus, as well as both the University Downtown Center and Innovative Technologies Complex. According to Karen Fennie, the communications specialist for Physical Facilities, the priority during storms such as Stella is to maintain access to main roads so that fire and emergency services can access campus. During large storms, Physical Facilities employees also focus on clearing walkways to student dining centers and ensuring that health services can remain accessible to students.
“Tuesday was focused mainly on these tasks, so plows and brush machines were out continuously keeping up with the snow that was falling and maintaining access in these areas,” Fennie said. “As an example of how time consuming this can be, one of the tasks is to dig out the 75 fire hydrants around campus.”
After a large storm, outside resources may be needed, and contractors can be contacted to help with cleanup efforts. In the aftermath of Stella, third-party services were contacted by Binghamton University to help Physical Facilities employees clear snow. In addition, 18 members of the National Guard assisted Physical Facilities staff with snow removal over the weekend.
“The National Guard brought five dump trucks with them and assisted with the removal of large snow piles,” Fennie said. “We were able to secure an off-campus area to relocate the snow.”
Due to Stella, some employees logged over 80 hours of work last week. Besides keeping vital roads and pathways open, employees were also responsible for plowing commuter parking lots and salting and sanding pathways. Fennie stated that accomplishing these tasks often requires many different tools.
“A variety of methods and machines are used depending on the area,” Fennie said. “[We use] everything from shovels, snow blowers, pickup trucks with plows and skid steers.”
Currently, efforts are focused on freeing up parking on campus. Over the weekend, residents were asked to move their cars to commuter lots so that Physical Facilities could plow these areas. The Parking Lot M and Parking Lot F commuter lots have been entirely cleared, as have all residential lots.
In addition, several smaller paths in residential communities have yet to be cleared of snow. Physical Facilities employees will continue to work to clear these areas throughout the week.