While students were away over break, Indianapolis faced one of the toughest storms in its history. With close to record low temperatures and parts of the area getting a foot of snow, Mayor Greg Ballard advised many businesses and schools to close. This caused many area schools to miss their entire first week of classes. UIndy closed their facilities the week leading up to students’ return.
According to Vice President for Student and Campus Affairs and Dean of Students Kory Vitangeli, the decision to close goes through the Physical Plant and Campus Police. The process includes the Physical Plant updating Vitangeli on whether it is able to keep up with snow removal and salt application.
On the other side, UIndy Police Chief and Director of Safety David Selby monitors weather and traffic patterns. Selby looks at the UIndy weather monitoring system to see the magnitude of the storms headed toward campus, as well as traffic patterns to see how well traffic is moving throughout the city. They then recommend a closing, a delay, or to operate under normal hours.
As many people saw during Ballard’s press conference, he raised the weather threat level to red and strongly advised schools and businesses to stay closed.
“Could we have stayed open? Of course, but every school shut down, and we want people to be safe,” Vitangeli said.
Many expressed frustration with city roads, but UIndy saw effectiveness in snow removal throughout the extreme conditions.
Vitangeli credited the university’s Physical Plant, which is responsible for all groundskeeping at UIndy. Although there are only four full-time staff members, she said they were able to get the job done for a number of reasons.
According to Vitangeli, the workers were on snow removal duty for more than 30 hours straight. As soon as the snow started falling, the crew was on full duty, with the help of five, part-time crew members.
Director of Grounds at the Physical Plant Dustin Bodart said that the grounds crew used about 3,000-4,000 pounds of salt on the sidewalks and ground. A number that sounds high, but it is actually a fairly low amount.
“We use 3,000-4,000 pounds [of salt] when there’s an inch of snow or less…The plows only work on two or more inches of snow,” Bodart said.
The low use of salt is because of the extremely low temperatures. The chemical will not work in extreme cold weather, so the Physical Plant used less than they would under normal circumstances.
Due to the amount of snow, Bodart said that the Physical Plant’s equipment was “pushed to the limit” and that if there had been more snow, they would have had a tougher time maintaining the campus.
Vitangeli commended the hard work of the Physical Plant but also credited UIndy’s success to good timing and good planning.
With more than 100 students staying in the residence halls over break, UIndy had an emergency plan because of the high risk of losing power. Had any of the residence halls lost power, there was a generator ready to go at Roberts Hall, where the university planned to move all students in case of an outage.
“A special thanks [is due] to the Physical Plant grounds crew,” Vitangeli said. “I think people always expect that the lots and sidewalks will be clear, but it takes a lot of hard work from a lot of people.”