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Icicles, black ice pose threat to student safety

Winter weather forces university to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to keep campus s

Staff Writer

Published: Sunday, February 23, 2014

Updated: Sunday, February 23, 2014 23:02

Icicles hanging precariously from dorms, packs of snow mounting ever-higher on classroom buildings, black ice coating walkways and piles of snow growing on the median strips all pose dangers to the UConn community.

According to the Associate Vice President of Facilities Operations and Building Services Michael Jednak, icicles, sight lines and snow packs are the three dangers that his crew is currently most concerned about.

“We have spent the last week getting snow off the roofs to minimize icicles,” Jednak said. “We knock them down and do our best to monitor ones that may become an issue.”

Over the past couple of weeks, several reports of icicles posing a potential danger have come in from students and faculty, but no injuries have been reported. Facilities has responded by closing some staircases, such as the one in front of the Business School.

Snow piles blocking the sight lines for students and faculty driving into campus are another major concern of Jednak’s.

“We have to scoop and haul the snow out so piles remain low enough for drivers to see around,” said Jednak.

The snow is transported to the many fields on and around campus, which – according to Jednak – UConn is lucky to have. Jednack came to UConn from Boston College, and said the cities have to battle the constant problem of where to put all of the snow.

But ice, unlike snow, cannot be so easily moved and causing a problem for many students around campus.

“The parking lot floods during the day and then freezes over at night. It’s so slippery that cars get stuck,” said Jordan D’Angelo, a 2nd-semester commuter student in the ACES program.

Attempting to prevent the potential disasters that could be caused by this continual thawing and refreezing cycle requires ample amounts of salts and ice melts which, according to Jednak, UConn Facilities Operations spends $300,000 on per year.

“We are working on a more comprehensive plan to clear parking lots,” Jednak said. “We need to find a way to encourage students to move their cars so the plows can clear the entire lot, but it is difficult, because there is nowhere to move them to.”

The ice and snow has also been a problem for UConn’s polo teams.

“One of the issues we’ve been having is that there is a lot of snow piled around doors and a lot of ice on the roads leading into the arena, which is very dangerous because when we were walking the horses last weekend, many of them were slipping,” said Julia Baddos, a second semester animal science major and member of the UConn women’s polo team.

But the snow isn’t only blocking the doors, it’s piled up on a bowed plank of wood across the scaffolding in front of the door.

“There was a permanent structure in front of the polo door but it broke and now every winter we put up a scaffolding to protect people from falling snow and icicles,” Jednak said.

But the scaffolding adds another danger. If the snow on top gets too heavy it could break.

“The roofing department shovels it because of the bowing. It has never fallen in,” said Jednak.

Every flat roof needs to be shoveled when the snow buildup reaches a certain level. Jednak also has the areas of prime concern inspected by a team of engineers to make sure they are structurally sound and remain safe for all building users. 

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