All Clear: Facilities Works Around the Clock to Keep University Running During December Blizzard


As this winter's first record-setting snow storm swept across Columbia's Morningside campus, blanketing New York City with approximately 20 inches of snow, Facilities team members worked around the clock to keep the University running.    

Facilities' staff members worked from Sunday, December 26 through Wednesday, December 29 to clear the snow and ice from on- and off- campus roadways, stairways, and building entrances. Together, they utilized 24 ice choppers, 24 shovels, 4 plow trucks, 2 Bobcat skid-steer loaders, and 8 tons of de-icing materials.

"We had the equipment ready, and we were prepared. Fortunately, the blizzard occurred during the holiday break, so many students, faculty, and staff were away," said Frank Molina, Campus Operations supervisor.

Even with preparations, the severe weather conditions-which intensified by the hour and were enhanced by 3-4 feet of unexpected snowdrifts-created challenges such as getting equipment through the area and finding places to put the cleared snow. Challenges aside, Molina credits everyone's hard work and leadership, as Facilities cleared 8 feet pathways throughout Morningside campus, easing the University's accessibility.

"This snow storm was a challenge but with such dedicated employees they made it look easy," said Ermelinda Pennil, manager Undergraduate Residential Operations. "By mid-afternoon that Monday, all fifteen undergraduate residential building entrances, sidewalks, and ramps were cleared."

Residential Operations Supervisor Peter Baptiste was among the many who braved the crippling weather conditions to support the cleanup effort. At 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, Baptiste ventured into the snow storm, despite the lack of public transportation, and walked for over an hour to get to a train station en route to the city.

Such dedication is noted by many across the University, like Steve Siegelbaum, professor of neuroscience and pharmacology investigator and chair of the Department of Neuroscience at Columbia University Medical Center, who "appreciates the fantastic job that the building staff and rest of the Riverside Drive facilities employees did in dealing with the recent snowstorm."

Mark Kerman, assistant vice president, Residential and Commercial Operation shares Siegelbaum's sentiment. "In blizzards like this one, people always notice and comment on how much cleaner our sidewalks are than any of the surrounding areas. They also seem to realize that this isn't just an isolated example, but it is an integral part of the quality of service that they receive every day. It clearly demonstrates the pride and sense of responsibility that the members of our team feel towards their residents, their buildings, and the University."