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Timing crucial for safe winter roads at UConn

With the first snowfall of the season already behind us, winter storms make for slippery roads and cancellations. When most of us drive to work the morning after a snowstorm, we take the freshly plowed and sanded roads for granted. Yet sleet and snow mean a lot of work for UConn's landscaping crew and some of the mechanical tradespeople employed by the University.

Although the state highway department is responsible for plowing Route 195 and North Eagleville Road, it is primarily the landscaping crew that clears off the many sidewalks and side roads on the Storrs campus.

"Timing is important in getting the roads ready for staff and students," says Brian Krystof, university landscaping supervisor. "We try to start at 6:30 a.m." If weather conditions are more serious, the plows may start out in the middle of the night.

Cancellations can actually make clearing the roads easier because there is less traffic. "When the University closes we can get a jump on it," says Eugene Roberts, director of facilities operations. The plows are out there, he says, "even on weekends and holidays. This place never closes. People are always here, even over the winter break, for research or basketball games."

Pick-up trucks, tractors, and skid loaders are frequently used for clearing the sidewalks. The equipment used depends upon the storm. "If there's 18 inches of snow," says Roberts, "you need a loader or big machinery."

The decision to deploy snowplows is made jointly by the UConn police, the office of facilities management and, in cases of closing, human resources. "The police department usually calls us after there's icy conditions or two inches of snow," says Krystof. "They decide when the conditions are bad enough to call us out there."

Parked cars, on the sides of roads and in parking lots, make plowing the snow even more difficult. "If people concentrated their cars together in the corner of the lot, they wouldn't even need to shovel themselves out," Roberts says. "When there are two or five cars spread out over the lot, it makes it difficult to get machinery around them."

"Public safety is the biggest challenge," says Krystof. "We concentrate on making it safe for everyone."

Daniel Smolin