Snow Not Expected Soon, but Duke Prepares

Review Duke's snow and ice plan and enter contest to win a prize

If Duke experiences any severe weather incidents this winter, the university's snow and ice removal plan maps out priority areas to clear for pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Photo courtesy of Duke Photography.
If Duke experiences any severe weather incidents this winter, the university's snow and ice removal plan maps out priority areas to clear for pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Photo courtesy of Duke Photography.

Even with the official start of winter this Friday, Duke won't start looking like a winter wonderland any time soon.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says there's a less than 10 percent chance North Carolina will see a "white" Christmas featuring snow, although some early morning frost may be in the cards. Brandon Dunstan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Raleigh office, said there's no reason to think Durham will deviate from generally clear skies and temperatures between the 30s and 50s.

"Right now, there's no clear indication of any arctic outbreak or above normal temperatures for the rest of the month," Dunstan said. "It's been fairly mild lately and that trend will continue, although we may get a shot of colder air temperatures this week."

Even though severe winter weather isn't expected in the coming weeks, January and February are historically the busiest months for snowfall. The Triangle averages about six inches of snow a year, with two-to-three inches coming in each of those months. That's why Duke community members are encouraged to review details of Duke's snow and ice removal plan in case of future weather events.

Only small changes have been made to this year's plan, with adjustments like plowing less by construction sites such as Baldwin Auditorium, where students and employees aren't currently visiting. That way, more attention can be paid to high-traffic, priority spots across Duke. For example, if a winter storm coincides with a Duke men's or women's basketball game, fan parking lots, driving routes and a sidewalk on Circuit Drive become priorities for snow or ice removal.

"We want to make sure our crews are used most efficiently to clear areas as thoroughly and quickly as possible to reduce potential hazards caused by snow and ice storms," said John Noonan, vice president of Facilities. "Because winter storms are unpredictable, some inconveniences should be expected and pedestrians should still use care when walking around campus and motorists should drive cautiously."

In the plan, areas across Duke University and Duke University Health System are sectioned into 15 precincts with parking lots, sidewalks and building entrances cleared according to priority. Priority generally starts with Duke-owned roads, followed by some parking lots and garages, bus stops, pedestrian pathways and building entrances. Depending on the severity of a winter storm and scheduled events on campus, priorities are subject to change. The amount of time to clear snow and ice can also fluctuate depending on conditions.

Duke community members walking on campus during or after a winter storm are reminded to follow priority sidewalks and building entrances. Areas to avoid are sloped surfaces, stairs, ramps and paths not identified as preferred routes, according to the plan.

During a winter weather event, Duke University and Duke University Health System share responsibilities in providing removal by clearing priority areas first but not all areas can be cleared at once, officials said.

There are 47 miles of sidewalks at Duke and hitting them all to remove snow or ice in short order is not possible, officials said. Crews will focus on main campus (West, Central and East) and Duke-owned off campus properties. A map of priority areas to be cleared is available at online.

With 2.1 million square feet of Duke-owned roads and 2.2 million square feet of priority parking, students and employees should expect priority areas to be done first during harsh weather. The start time for clearing a wintry mix is dependent on weather patterns and the amount of accumulation.

For a moveable snowfall of about three inches, it will take crews four to six hours after precipitation ends to clear priority sidewalks and roadways. For bigger storms, clearing priority areas could take eight or more hours. Since no storms are alike, it's impossible to have a uniform amount of time to clear all priority areas of campus.