(ANUSHA MOOKHERJEE / THE STATESMAN)
This snow season bought more slush and ice to Stony Brook University as the university scrambles to handle slips and accidents. (ANUSHA MOOKHERJEE / THE STATESMAN)

Within the first few weeks of this semester, snowstorms have brought students three days of cancelled classes and brought the university three days of snow removal efforts.

President Samuel L. Stanley made the decision to cancel classes in deliberation with the Emergency Management office, according to Assistant Vice President for Facilities and Services Terence Harrigan.

Considerations included timing of the snow and its expected impact on the region.

“Despite the large residential student housing population, we also need to consider the students, faculty and staff that travel from off campus and throughout the NYC metro area,” Director of the Office of Emergency Management Lawrence Zacarese explained via email.

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The recent cancellations included fitness classes at the Campus Recreation Center, suspension of SBU Transit services, early closure of Student Health Service and Stony Brook Child Care Services.

The budget for snow removal varies from year to year. “We can spend an average of 50k [sic] per snow event in extreme circumstances and as low as a thousand dollars for light snow events,” Director of Residential Operations John Sparano wrote in an email.

The budget for residential snow removal includes plowing and salting contract labor, hand shoveling contract labor, internal maintenance and custodial labor and bulk purchases for hand and street ice melting efforts.

Regularly consulting with Emergency Management, Facilities and Services conducts snow removal for West Campus in order to keep the main roads open. After that, they move to secondary roads and parking lots as the storm winds down, according to Harrigan.

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The budget covering labor and materials for West Campus is $75,000—the same as last year.

“Routinely the costs exceed that amount,” Harrigan wrote via email, “There are emergency funds set aside to cover the additional snow removal costs.”

Coordination among various university departments is essential in undertaking the task of dealing with the snow. The Office of Emergency Management works mainly with Campus Operations and Maintenance to organize snow removal efforts and emergency communications. Emergency Management collaborates with partners such as the National Weather Service to track forecasts and make informed decisions about closings and delays, according to Zacarese.

He explained that such communications occur days in advance and throughout weather events. Before each of the storms in the past weeks, Emergency Management has posted weather updates on Twitter and SB Alert.

As for the snow removal, the responsibilities are divided between the University Hospital, academic buildings and residences, according to Director of Residential Operations John Sparano.

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He explained that Residential Operations is primarily in charge of the residence halls and dining buildings within the quads, with the priority of clearing main roadways, bus loops and main paths to building entrances for emergency access. Snow removal began during the recent snow events and continued for several days around each residential building.

It has been a year since Winter Storm Nemo hit Stony Brook’s campus, which brought extreme amounts of snow. The university, however, used the extreme weather to make improvements to this year’s snow removal plan.

Zacarese explained that Emergency Management has had several rounds of meetings with Brookhaven town officials, Suffolk County officials, local fire departments and colleagues in the New York State Department of Transportation to discuss challenges faced during Nemo.

Since Stony Brook is surrounded by roads serviced by all of those groups—Nicolls Road is a county road, 347 and 25A are both state roads and Stony Brook Road is a town road— “it made sense to get all of the ‘snow removal players’ in the room at the same time,” Zacarese said.

The meetings, which will continue in the future, lead to changes in timing and logistics associated with plow routes to better address conditions on roads that service the campus.

Campus Residences improved the planning process before large events after Nemo in an effort to be conservative.

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“We did not anticipate the Suffolk County roadways to be as severely restricted as they were during and after the storm, and we experienced difficulty getting some of the heavier equipment truck to campus in a timely manner,” Sparano explained.

This year, Campus Residences has prepared by positioning heavy snow removal machinery on campus before heavy snow events begin.

As for Facilities and Services, “We continually work on improving our service. Each year we learn more about the needs of the campus and how we can better meet those needs,” Harrigan said about his office’s focus on making the roadways and walkways safe.

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