With last week’s cold spell, some students might be wondering why their room is cold, or why the sidewalks are so slippery. Last week’s temperatures of 30 to 40 degrees below zero for days straight caused issues all around campus and irritated both students and staff.
Sophomore Dan Shimek said temperature does not prevent him from doing what he wants. “Although it has been bitterly cold the last few days, that hasn’t stopped me from going snowboarding liberally,” said Shimek.
For some dealing with coming back from abroad, the cold came as a shock. “Coming back from India and seeing the first snow fall of the season was really great, but the novelty wore off and made me want to go back to India where it is warm,” said Junior Art Studio Major Amanda Skarphol.
Director of Physical Plant Warren Wunderlich said that the Physical Plant had some setbacks last week, including equipment problems and plain bad luck. “There were some issues this past week; one of the skidloaders that we use for snow removal had a failure … [and] one of the hydraulic hose devices failed, [so] we had to get a loaner in so we could continue to take care of things. When it gets really cold, diesel fuel tends to congeal and then it stops working, so we had to push a truck into one of our heated sheds and park it for a half a day to get it working again.”
In addition to equipment problems “Last week was a challenge from the depth of the cold,” Wunderlich said. “And the duration … I don’t remember a cold spell that deep and that long. There’s been longer ones, but to have four or five days where it was that brutally cold is unusual, at least in recent years.”
The cold weather compounded already icy sidewalks. “We’ve had to reorder salt and sand. We’ve gone through pretty much a season’s worth so far. Normally the temperature drops and you can … clean it up a couple of days later, [but] we had a little warm-up instead, so we ended [up] with ice everywhere, followed by, … some freezing rain. We’re hoping to see a few days above thirty this week so we could clear that up,” said Wunderlich.
The cold carried over to dorm rooms, leaving some in the cold. “Coming back from Ecuador, I was headed back [to] about -20 degree temperature. … I had trouble keeping warm in my room,” Said Junior Environmental Studies Major Lucas Neher.
There have been other complaints regarding cold dorm rooms. “Dorms seem to have more issues, maybe in part because of their age, [and] also in part how students use them,” said Wunderlich. “[There is] a lot of stuff in the dorms that covers up the radiators, and that makes it harder. There’s just more thermostats—every 200 square foot room has a thermostat, and that’s not the case in administration buildings.”
What should you do if your room is experiencing a freeze? “If it gets too cold, call: we’ll come to see what we can do. First thing, make sure you don’t have stuff piled on the floor in front of the radiators. Most of the radiators require airspace at the bottom. You can see the vents at the top, but it really needs the air to come in at the bottom. Beds pushed against it can confound that, among other things,” said Wunderlich.
Junior Biology Major and Sauna Society Co-President Adam Strand posed another solution to the cold rather than room thermostats. “I see the cold spell as a blessing in disguise. It allows for the quintessential sauna session because it makes the best snow roll possible,” said Strand.
Physical Plant was not the only campus department to have issues. Safety and Security had to deal with many cold-related incidents, from stalled cars to escorts. Director of Safety and Security Ray Thrower presented some statistics: “From Jan. 11-17, we gave 396 escorts. A year ago in the same week, [Safety and Security] gave 164 escorts.”
“Last week from Jan. 11-17, we had 82 jumpstarts. The same time in ’08, we had nine. Last week was a bad week. The officers could hardly get anything else done. Generally when it gets cold, [students] don’t want to walk, so they call us, pulling our resources so that we can’t patrol the buildings. … We encourage people to use escorts for security reasons, but last week, most people used us as a taxi service, taking resources away. We don’t want to turn you away at night, but just keep these things in mind.”
Thrower gave some other advice to prevent stalls and frostbite. “When you start getting down to 35-45 [degrees] below, you need to cover skin, because you will get frostbite in eight minutes. If you’re going off campus and have been drinking, have a designated sober person look out for those who have been drinking so that they can get back on campus. Also consider running your car for 15 minutes a week if you aren’t going to drive it; some of the jumps we tried didn’t work because the batteries were frozen.”