City works to clear snow and ice in time for students’ return to WIU

Dennis Coyle

The Macomb community has been subjected to multiple outbursts of harsh winter weather this season. Luckily for WIU, the worst began shortly after the winter break commenced.The Macomb area received approximately 16 to 20 total inches of snowfall this winter and a majority of it fell near the end of the fall semester and the following week.

Although the area has seen its share of inconvenient snowstorms, the snowfall only played a part in the recent bad weather. It was the ice that made functioning in the area so difficult. Macomb was hit with bad weather Dec. 15; however, unlike its predecessors, this storm dropped rain rather than snow. As a result, the Macomb area was quickly covered in a thin layer of ice. This mixture of snow and ice made work difficult for WIU ground crews who were charged with clearing the WIU campus.

“The snow wasn’t the big issue – it was the ice that made it very difficult to remove,” Pat Dowdall, Physical Plant construction project coordinator, said. “When we came back from Christmas, it was just a glare. The whole campus was a sheet of ice.”

The severity of the winter weather left the east side of Macomb and WIU powerless. Students and staff were further disrupted when WIU lost its power causing the cancellation of the full graduate school commencement ceremony. WIU did offer an informal graduate ceremony with the help of candles and flashlights.

The WIU grounds crew has been continuously working to finish the snow removal process in order to get the campus ready for the return of students.

“We’re just now finishing up with the ice and snow removal,” Dowdall said. “We’re trying to get everything open for the residence halls and lots so we can get all the students back.”

In an effort to clean up the campus’ 22 miles of sidewalks and approximately 100 sets of steps and multiple acres of parking lots, the ground crew used a tremendous amount of salt, six large trucks with plows and salt spreaders, three large tractors and eight to 10 lawn tractors.

Despite all the heavy machinery, the grounds crew’s biggest relief was the recent warm weather.

“We cleared as much of it as we could,” Dowdall said. “The January thaw has really helped out.”

Even after the warm weather, there are still areas that need snow removed. In the Higgins Hall parking lot, there is a snow pile six feet high that stretches the length the lot. That area and similar snow piles will not be removed. Students will have to wait for more warm weather to melt the snow piles.

“Without … a pay-loader and an end-loader, there was really no way to get it all hauled out,” Dowdall said. “We have hauled a little snow in different places but the majority of it has been stocked.”

With random piles of snow and rising temperatures, students will have to watch out for patches of ice when the temperature drops below freezing.

In the wake of all the snow and ice, Dowdall thinks this was not all that bad of a severe weather stretch.

“I wouldn’t say it was one of the more difficult ones but … the wind and cold temperatures and then having ice and snow on top did make it difficult,” Dowdall said. “There is a lot to take care of here at WIU.