By TENA COOK
CSC Marketing Coordinator
CHADRON — Winter Storm Ulmer resulted in an historic three-day closure of Chadron State College March 13 through 15.
Although classes were canceled and offices were closed, more than 800 essential personnel hours were logged by Maintenance, Custodial and Grounds staff between Wednesday morning and Saturday evening, according to Todd Baumann, maintenance manager.
At the height of the snow removal operation Thursday, 31 staff members were working. Before and after the peak snowfall, personnel staggered their shifts to cover 12-hour days.
“We had to prioritize the buildings so we worked first and foremost to clear the sidewalks between the Student Center and the residence halls so students could eat,” Baumann said.
In addition to cleaning residence halls and emptying trash, Custodial and Maintenance crews shoveled snow away from buildings so Grounds crews with equipment could pick it up or move it.
The amount of snow, its high water content, and driving winds combined to make snow removal a daunting task. Baumann said it took him 30 minutes on a Bobcat Toolcat utility vehicle to clear the sidewalk from the east entrance to Andrews Hall 50 yards to the main sidewalk across campus.
Baumann said he was grateful for the equipment his staff had available: a front end loader, a forklift with extended boom, and three Bobcat Toolcats.
“We could only use the Toolcat with the blower in the mornings when the snow was dry because when it started to melt, the wet snow jammed the auger,” Baumann said.
Baumann said in his 18 years with the college, it was the first time he recalled three snow days in a row.
Snow removal teams received meals from CSC Dining Services in the Student Center, according to Deb Kuskie, office manager.
“Many of them said it was the first time they had eaten in the Dining Room and they loved it. It was our way of saying thanks for cleaning out our dock and parking lot, so our staff and possibly trucks could get to work,” Kuskie said.
One food supply truck came to Chadron Wednesday but could not reach campus, so some of the CSC Dining Services employees met the truck across town and hauled supplies to campus. All other food supply trucks were unable to reach Chadron until Saturday when regular deliveries resumed.
Kuskie said the staff adjusted menus to make the food from the lone truck, plus what they had on hand work to feed between 150 and 225 students for lunch and dinner on the three days campus was closed. Normally, between the Dining Room and the Eagle Grille, Dining Services serves about 600 for lunch and 550 for dinner. The Eagle Grille was closed and the Dining Room operated from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday and Friday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday.
“We worked with a reduced staff to keep as many of our employees safe as possible,” Kuskie said.
Mark Hunt, security supervisor, said there were no issues related to safety during the storm and he was encouraged when he saw several students helping dig out each other’s vehicles.
Lucinda Mays, grounds supervisor, said she was happy to report no tree damage from the blizzard.
“Ever since Winter Storm Atlas in October 2013, the grounds crew has been working to improve the structural soundness and strength of our trees with proper trimming practices and it really paid off,” Mays said. “Thankfully there was no ice and wind combination or it could have been a completely different outcome.”
With spring practice scheduled to start Monday, head football coach Jay Long organized 110 football players to clear the snow from Elliott Field on Friday.
“The snow was too deep and heavy to plow or brush off so we had to do it by hand. It was a great team building exercise,” Long said.
(Photo courtesy Sharon Rickenbach)