U plows on despite snow emergency

by Mike Wereschagin

Staff Reporter
As six inches of snow blanketed the Twin Cities on Wednesday, schools closed, Minneapolis officials declared a snow emergency and airports grounded hundreds of flights.
At the University, however, it was business as usual.
It takes a lot more than Wednesday’s storm to make the University call off classes, said Florence Funk, assistant to the University’s executive vice president and provost.
“We would have to experience major weather trauma to shut down,” Funk said.
The decision to close the University because of inclement weather hails from the office of Bob Bruininks, executive vice president and provost.
Before Bruininks even considers cancellation, metro bus services need to shut down, snow on University streets and sidewalks would have to become unmanageable and wind chill has to be severe, Funk said.
Jim Blake, facilities support supervisor, said weather has not shut down the campuses in the six years he has worked for the University.
“This (storm) is a lot worse than anything else this year,” Blake said. “But it’s certainly not the worst I’ve seen here.”

Snow Job
Blake is responsible for coordinating the University’s snow removal efforts. By 3 p.m. Wednesday, he and his crews had cleared the roads four times and were getting ready for a fifth sweep.
They began plowing at eight Wednesday morning and continued until nine that evening.
After University crews went home, three outside contractors equipped with 30 pieces of heavy machinery continued removing and plowing snow, a job that lasted through the night.
Blake said he expected to be back on campus at 5:30 this morning to continue the cleanup.
“Any significant snowfall means about 48 hours of work for us,” Blake said.
Because of Minneapolis’ snow emergency, the city has issued several parking restrictions.
Parking is prohibited on the odd sides of nonsnow emergency routes from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and on even sides of streets Friday. Parking on either side of parkways is prohibited today.
The University’s snow-removal capacity lets it stay open while other institutions across the state are forced to close, Funk said.
“I always say there is the city of Minneapolis, the city of St. Paul and the city of the University of Minnesota,” she said. “We have our own snow-removal system, our own electricity … that allow us to operate independently of the rest of the state.
“This is a very big university,” Funk explained. “It’s also a major research institution. For both the researchers and their projects, it is very important that we remain open.”
We’re open, but you don’t have to come
Funk said she encourages individuals to decide for themselves whether it is safe to come to school.
“The people here have to be free to make their own decisions,” Funk said. “It might be 10 times worse in Anoka than it is here.”
However, students would still be subjected to the penalties for missing a class, regardless of the weather, she said.
Cara Flora, a junior journalism major, decided to brave the blizzard this morning from her home in Plymouth, Minn. Because of the storm, her usual 45 minute drive took more than twice as long.
“It took me two hours to get to school today,” Flora said emphatically. “It was so boring I almost fell asleep.”
Other students, like cellular biology sophomore Colleen Kolnik, saw the silver lining in Wednesday’s overcast sky.
“Well, it made the lines at the bookstore shorter,” she said.
Most students weathering the storm were more succinct in their opinions. Freshman Beth Brown, an American Indian studies major, meekly registered her feelings as she shrugged into her jacket:
“I’m cold.”
Mike Wereschagin welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x.3226.