As Winter Arrives, Stay Informed about Harsh Weather

Temperatures, snowfall expected to be normal this season

Facilities Management has a plan in place to handle any snow and ice that accumulates on campus. In case of winter weather, faculty and staff are encouraged to review the plan at emergency.duke.edu. Photo by Duke Photography.
Facilities Management has a plan in place to handle any snow and ice that accumulates on campus. In case of winter weather, faculty and staff are encouraged to review the plan at emergency.duke.edu. Photo by Duke Photography.

While some areas of the country, including the Northeast and Midwest, are expected to have colder than normal winters, the National Weather Service suggests that the Mid-Atlantic should stay within its normal 32 to 53 degree average for December and 30 to 51 degrees in January.

"North Carolina is right on the edge of colder air staying just north of us and warm air that's staying south," said Barrett Smith, a forecaster at the National Weather Service's Raleigh office. "What it means is that we should enter fairly normal patterns over the next one to three months, even if we get some storm systems that offer a fair share of precipitation."

Even though severe winter weather isn't expected in the Triangle right now, January and February are historically the busiest months for snowfall, 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.

Small adjustments have been made to Duke's snow and ice plan that reflect ongoing construction and renovations across campus. For example, Baldwin is included on this year’s plan while the portion of the Plaza now closed has been removed.  Also, walkways at the Sanford School of Public Policy and Mary Duke Biddle Music Building have been given a higher priority this year due to vision or mobility-impaired Duke community members.

By making slight adjustments each winter, Facilities Management is able to pay more attention to priority spots across Duke, but some inconveniences should be expected, and pedestrians and motorists should use care on and around campus.

"Our goal is always to make sure our crews are able to clear areas as thoroughly and quickly as possible to reduce potential hazards," said Bryan Hooks, director of Grounds for Facilities Management.

In the snow and ice removal plan, areas across Duke 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.

During a winter weather event, the University and Health System share responsibilities in providing removal by clearing priority areas first but not all areas can be cleared at once. With 47 miles of sidewalks at Duke, crews 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.

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.

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.