Feb 16, 2010

Snow proves costly to university

by Cat Hewett

In the 2000 movie “Snow Day,” a snow storm causes schools to be cancelled in an upstate New York town. The movie follows one family as they try to take advantage of the day off.

Liberty University students got their taste of snow day fever this semester when the first of many snow storms hit Friday night Jan. 29, and the snow plows have not stopped since.

“We work around the clock,” Liberty Director of Field Operations Scott Starnes said. “We actually split the shift up. We put half of the crew from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the second crew from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m., seven days a week until we can get control of the situation.”
Keeping roads and sidewalks clear has been difficult, according to Starnes. The National Weather Service (NOAA) reported that Lynchburg has received 32.7 in. of snow this season.

“It is near record-breaking,” Liberty Director of Planning and Construction Charles Spence said.

Starnes said that overtime for workers and fuel for equipment and chemicals, including salt for the roads, will cost Liberty approximately $150,000.

The snow has cancelled and delayed schools around the region. Virginia Tech University had two delays, one early release and one full day cancelled, while Lynchburg College had six delays.
Liberty plowing crews have several priorities when plowing, according to Starnes. First they plow in front of dorms where physically challenged students live, then the main exits from the dormitories and the parking lots.

“There are a lot of factors in it,” Starnes said. “Our biggest challenge is when we have a parking lot full of cars, it is hard for us to get in and actually do an efficient job.”

Starnes also said that because so much manpower has been moved to help clear the roads, work tickets and minor repairs might take longer response times than normal.

The snow has caused few other issues around the university. Spence said that a few pipes have burst, snow plows will need repair and issues at Liberty’s newest residence, the Lynchburg Inn, have come to light.

“We just realized how energy inefficient (the Lynchburg Inn) is during this weather,” Spence said.

Spence also said that the construction on campus has basically stopped.

“It has been tough,” Spence said. “We cannot get materials to the site, even our construction workers could not get here some days. On the planning side, it has really been a godsend. It gave us a little time to work on some design issues which should result in better productivity in the long run to make up for the time lost to weather.”

Director of Auxiliary Services Lee Beaumont said that other activities severely hurt by the storms were food services and on-campus events.

“We have to do a lot more planning ahead, stocking up five days worth of food in the dining hall, because you never know,” Beaumont said. “If the roads were shut down for whatever reasons, we still have to feed 6,700 students on the meal plan.”

Beaumont said that he had to put some of the dining workers in the Wingate hotel so that they could come into work. Beaumont also said that he and other departments had to send workers to help keep the roads clear so that some Liberty facilities could open.

“If we did not open the student center, Snowflex, the ice rink and things like that, what would the students do?” Beaumont said. “They would be stuck here. The bottom line is that we still have to work to service the students.”

Contact Cat Hewett at


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