By PHONG LY
Winter weather has come in full effect, as heavy snowfall resulted in personnel casualties across the Midwest. According to WGN-9 of Chicago, the recent winter storm left at least seven dead when it hit Central U.S last week. The Missouri State Highway Patrol reported at least four people have died and scores of motorists were injured and stranded. The Des Moines Register reported that this snow, along with the lowering temperature this week is likely to be the coldest temperatures this Midwest city has experience in the past 50 years. As a private college located in the city of Des Moines, Drake University, along with its’ students, faculty and staff, potentially faced multiple cold weather-related issues in the upcoming weeks.
One of the bigger safety issues is the ice form on the sidewalks and walkways all over campus, which could make going to class difficult. Mitch Wieczorek, the Custodial Manager of Facilities Planning and Management here at Drake, emphasized that the safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors here at Drake is their top priority.
“The Grounds Department is the primary crew for snow and ice removal for over 20 acres of parking lots, 12.5 miles of sidewalks and over 50 sets of stairs,” Wieczorek said.
Wieczorek said this will also include the area around Knapp Center. The task will be carried out by a staff of 8 employees and himself. The custodial staff will be playing a large role clearing snow and spreading ice melt near the buildings they clean. However, dealing with slippery ice will be a multi-department effort to keep everyone safe, and still the total removal of ice is not guaranteed.
“Public Safety and the Duty Engineers will also complete regular rounds on campus 24/7, and address isolated areas they see with ice melt,” Wieczorek said. “They also communicate with us as conditions change.”
In addition to that, Drake facilities also keep a close eye on several weather sites to see how the storms are forecast to develop so they could develop a plan to approach the issue.
“The weather is not an exact science and has no set schedule, but we try manage the information that is available to keep the campus safe,” Wieczorek said.
Drake students are also gearing up to get ready for the snow. Junior Tate Johnson said he is ready to wear many layers to combat the cold.
“I’ll probably have a scarf with me or something to cover my face from the blistering wind as well,” Johnson said. “It is also important when you drive, to take your time and try to be extra aware of other drivers and the condition of the roads.”
Junior Chase Dooley, was also a student at Drake, now studying in University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, said he tried to not walk on the sidewalks unless they’ve been salted well to avoid slipping on ice.
“If I had to walk on ice, I spread my weight out to keep my balance,” Dooley said. “Keeping warm is important too, dressing in layers is vital.”
Dooley also recommended for driving, it’s recommended to keep something heavy in the truck, in additional to cold weather emergency kit.
“That usually includes a shovel, kitty litter, a blanket or two, some small candles and a lighter, water and some snacks, like granola bars,” Dooley said. “This is in case you get stuck somewhere and have to stay with your car because that almost happened to me.”
Chris Nickell of Drake Environmental Health and Safety Department also sent out and email to campus with some tips to avoid and reduce injuries from wet and icy surfaces. Some of the tips in the email include being careful of your surrounding surface environment and anticipate the fact that you can fall at any moment when walking on ice.
“Often ice will appear in the morning, in shady spots, or where the sun shines during the day and melted snow refreezes at night,” Nickell addressed in the email. “Walk consciously when walking on snow or ice and look up to see where your feet will move next to anticipate ice or an uneven surface, scan from left to right to ensure you are not in the way of vehicles or other hazards.”
Wearing appropriate footwear was also emphasized in the list of tips. Nickell recommend that students’ shoes should have low heels with soles constructed of a slip-resistant material. “Walk slow and when walking down steps, be sure to grip handrails firmly and plant your feet securely on each step,” Nickell said.