Despite setbacks, ground crews work to clear campus after weekend storm

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St. Thomas is still recovering from the snowstorm that hit campus this past weekend.

The National Weather Service reported about 17 inches of snow fell in the Twin Cities during the weekend storm.

Junior Joseph McCauley had to dig his car out of an on-campus parking lot. He said when he saw it “I was like, oh, they shoveled, cleared the lot without [telling us]. I wasn’t expecting this much snow.”

But the maintenance staff was expecting the storm. Turf technician Roger Weinbrenner checked the weather all day Friday to try to prepare for the storm.

“I keep watching the weather, checking about five sites to try to get some consensus,” he said. “But you never really know.”

To prepare for the storm, the crew checked its equipment.

“We already filled everything up with fuel, make sure we’ve got that,” Weinbrenner said. “We’ve even got extra can of fuel in case the pumps don’t work.”

While the crew was prepared for the storm, the campus is still not completely cleared five days later.

The heavy snowfall, which started late Friday and ended Saturday evening, damaged some equipment, causing setbacks. Only six people make up the grounds crew staff, and they have to maintain more than 15 miles of sidewalks.

Weinbrenner said his staff is working hard to clear campus sidewalks, parking lots and other areas. But he said “this one was a little trying.”

“We had a lot of snow and equipment issues,” he said. “I would say some of our guys have put in 12 hours a day for four days in a row.”

Newer facilities, such as the Anderson parking ramp, require more maintenance, which means more work, Weinbrenner said.

The Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex and new student center have landscapes the grounds crew must work around.

“We’d love to have more people. It stresses us,” he said. “By the end of winter we are all on each other’s nerves. That would be nice to have more people to spread it out.”

Weinbrenner said the Physical Plant is aware of the staffing situation, but said he has not heard talk about hiring more people. He said in past winters, the need for more workers was not as dire.

In his 10 years at St. Thomas, Weinbrenner said he has not seen a storm or winter quite like this one.

“Some winters we get 20 inches of snow and have one or two of these [storms],” he said. “This just happens to be our fourth one in 20 days. It adds up.”

The crew is working as quickly as it can to clear campus walkways, especially since it is finals week on campus, he said. And according to the 10-day forecast, more snow is on its way, Weinbrenner added.

“We get to [take] a day’s break and get to start over,” Weinbrenner said.

The grounds crew will be on call if there is a storm during the holidays, Weinbrenner said. The parking lots and walkways have to be cleared for safety and security reasons. The university posts winter weather advisory alerts on its website to notify the community if parking lots will be cleared or campus events will be rescheduled.

Theresa Malloy can be reached at