by Annika Bjornson | Staff Writer
With the onset of October snow, Whitworth prepares for sub-30 degree weather by taking out the snowplows and warning students to walk like a penguin.
Grounds manager Brandon Pyle works on a team of seven people who plow the roads and the 14 miles of sidewalks on campus. At 3:30am on a day of fresh snow, they have their heat and music cranked up as they plow and apply liquid deicer.
“It’s a big safety concern,” Pyle said. “When we are thinking about what we’re going to do, we will never take risks. We will always err on the side of doing too much to make sure that nothing bad happens.”
For students who are new to the snow, Pyle has several key recommendations. Students should be prepared to think ahead in every situation, whether by keeping extra clothes in their car or by allocating extra time to get everywhere. Such preparations are especially important for those who will need to scrape and warm up their car. Car owners should also start up their vehicles for 10-15 minutes once a week and inspect their cars for flat tires before driving, which can be common in the winter.
When walking on an icy area, one should keep their weight over their feet. Pyle also warned students to be careful not to walk around while looking at their phones.
“Stay alert during the winter,” Pyle said. “We will be out in that daytime trying to keep things clear. These [machines] are loud and we can’t hear very well…Keep your head up and look out for us.”
Pyle partners with the National Weather Service, who employs licensed meteorologists 24 hours a day to understand what safety measures need to be taken. Before a fresh snowfall, he will call his employees at 11pm or 12am to let them know when they need to get up to hit the sidewalks.
The grounds department invests a lot into deicer; it is typically $1.20 a gallon and it takes 1,5000 gallons a night to deice campus on a particularly cold day. However, Pyle recently purchased a machine from Minnesota for the team to make their own liquid deicer for 15 cents a gallon.
Students who would like to know more about winter weather hazards should consult the U.S. Department of Labor’s Hazards/Precautions page: https://www.osha.gov/dts/weather/winter_weather/hazards_precautions.html.