WSU snow clearers reflect on historic snowfall

Facilities Services faces hiring shortages coupled with early, record precipitation

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COURTESY OF IAN ALLEN

Facilities workers clear snow from a parking lot on campus following last week’s record snow event.

JOSIAH PIKE, Evergreen reporter

WSU Facilities Services staff members have had to deal with historic snowfall this month, with much of the precipitation falling earlier than usual.

Grounds department supervisor Derrick Reynolds said the snow levels have been higher and offered fewer breaks between bouts than previous years, making it harder for workers to clear.

“For us, it was a little bit harder because it kept coming down, day and night,” Reynolds said. “It didn’t give us a break; it just kept coming down.”

Heavy equipment supervisor Ian Allen said the amount of snow was unexpected this time of year, with those levels of snow normally falling in late January or February.

“It was harder for us because of the conditions. We had really wet snow,” Allen said. “That first initial day, we got 6-8 inches. The next day everything got cold and turned to ice. It was almost too much for the smaller rigs we use.”

Many people in leadership roles have had to go out and help some of their employees manually clear the snow because there is so much to remove, he said.

Richard Finch, plant services and waste management manager, said they have also had to get used to the hiring shortages many companies are facing, with fewer employees to clear areas of campus.

“We’re short-handed and having trouble filling positions … we’re not getting a lot of applicants,” Finch said. “The result of that is people on campus may see a certain walkway or set of stairs isn’t done. It’s not because people haven’t been doing their job.”

Heavy equipment lead Darren Palmer said their jobs can be stressful at times, especially when the snow levels are high and they have to work long shifts.

“It can be mentally exhausting after a couple of days,” Palmer said. “It’s almost hard to wind down after a 12-hour shift.”

Palmer said despite the larger workload than usual, their jobs do not have a high risk of danger, and they have experience working in many different conditions.

Grounds department lead Ian MacConnel said most other employees are not forced to work in conditions that are deemed too dangerous.

“We encourage people to stay home and warm up if anybody actually gets to a point where it has a negative impact on their body,” MacConnel said. “We’re here to make sure campus is safe. If conditions were too dangerous, then they’d probably call off class.”

Allen said it is unlikely for something dangerous to happen on the job, but their employees are trained to know what to do in any possible dangerous situation.

It is most likely that more snow will come soon, although employees are not sure. Reynolds said they are prepared for the worst.

“I imagine more will come,” MacConnel said. “Hopefully, this wasn’t a minor dusting.”

Finch said Facilities Services will continue to clear the campus of snow, but he recommends students do their part to help them as well.

“We recommend having good snow tires and wearing proper footwear, watching where they step instead of looking at their phones,” Finch said. “We’re doing everything we can to clear the roads.”