Getting Prepared for a Winter Storm

The first official day of winter is Dec. 21, and wetter-than-average conditions are predicted for North Carolina

The Benjamin Duke statue is blanketed with snow on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018. Photos by Jonathan Black.
The Benjamin Duke statue is blanketed with snow on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018. Photos by Jonathan Black.

Last week’s winter storm that brought nearly a foot of snow, ice and freezing rain to parts of Durham may be a harbinger of things to come, but Duke’s response team is ready.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a winter that will be wetter than average in North Carolina.

Duke response teams were ready during the large winter storm in early December, which is unusual for central North Carolina. Just a few days prior to the storm, Duke's Facilities Management  Department hosted its annual “snow rodeo.” The event gave Landscape Services staff an opportunity to acclimate to equipment used during wintry weather. Employees practiced hooking salt spreaders to trucks and drove plows around cones in an obstacle course. 

Kyle Cavanaugh, vice president of administration and Duke’s emergency coordinator, said that staff across Duke pulled together during the recent storm to prepare and respond, including pretreating and clearing miles of campus roads, sidewalks and parking lots. 

“Leading up to, and then literally around the clock, we have dozens of Duke employees working diligently to create the safest environment possible for our patients, students, visitors and faculty and staff,” Cavanaugh said. “The dedication and engagement is a demonstration of Duke at its best.”

Candi Walker, grounds equipment operator for Duke Facilities, drives a snow plow around an obstacle coursed during the snow rodeo.Preparations for this winter season began with facilities ordering 50 tons of salt, 75 tons of sand and 2,000 gallons of brine to spread on the roads, sidewalks and parking lots.

For the recent storm, as snow loomed closer to Durham, Facilities crews filled service vehicles with fuel and outfitted themselves with jackets, hats, gloves, snow boots and reflective vests.  

“Our winter season starts before everyone else’s,” said Bryan Hooks, assistant director of Duke Landscape Services. “There’s a whole lot of parameters we have to manage. So any kind of jump start on handling bad weather makes everything easier.”

When a storm is days away, Duke Facilities pretreats roads and paths for snow, ice and/or freezing rain. Crews then work on clearing roads and sidewalks during the storm based on the snow/ice priority clearing map

Hooks advises the Duke community to avoid paths that aren’t cleared. 

“Communication is key to everything,” Hooks said. “It keeps my crew safe when they’re in the plows and it keeps the community safe to know what areas of campus are accessible.” 

In the event of severe winter weather, the Duke community should monitor emergency.duke.edu and the Working@Duke Twitter account for real-time updates about transit delays, dining openings, and other important information. Employees can also call (919) 684-INFO.

Staff and faculty are also encouraged to review service designations by talking with their supervisors. Employees are assigned to one of three categories during severe weather: essential, reserve or delayed. Essential service employees are required to report to or remain at work; reserve service will be assigned at the time of severe weather; and delayed service employees should not report to or remain at work in severe weather. 

Hooks said it’s imperative to follow the designations because crews can prepare campus for business as usual in a more efficient and safe manner. 

See how Duke responded to last season’s winter storms:

Duke's Snow and Ice Response
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