With the recent cases of snow, freezing rain and ice on campus, many students wonder what dictates a snow day or delay. According to the assistant director of the Physical Plant Grounds Department Bud Winsor, the storms affecting Keene have been unusual in the amount of ice they bring, rather than snow, and ice is significantly harder for the Physical Plant team to deal with. “We haven’t had a typical snowstorm,” Winsor said.
Grounds Landscape Team Lead at Keene State College Joe Britton said that getting snow is often a better case for those working plows than freezing rain. “We’d rather have a foot of fluffy snow than where it starts to snow then turns to rain and then you have to delay plowing because you’re worried about freezing on the solid surfaces.”
In the event of larger snow storms where all classes are canceled, safety is the number one priority when it comes to choosing which area should be plowed first. “Often times it’s ways for fire trucks and emergency vehicles,” Britton said. Another priority is opening all walkways to places like the Zorn Dining Commons, which remains open no matter the weather.
Sometimes the decision is made to wait to plow the sidewalks and, according to Britton, there is a specific reason for that. “If you have two inches of snow and you’re expecting a freezing rain, if you plow that off its going to turn into a skating rink, so you’re looking for the snow to absorb that moisture before you remove it,” Britton said.
Winsor said the decision to cancel classes is both a safety precaution and allows them to clean up places like parking lots, which are difficult to shovel when they are filled with cars. “We don’t do it because we want to do it. We do it because, if not, then we wouldn’t be able to do our job,” Winsor said.
The Keene State College Physical Plant Department is not only reactive to storms, but uses multiple weather programs to track incoming snow. “We start with looking at the weather forecast. We try to stay ahead of it as best as we can by knowing what the weather is,” said Winsor. “We have pretty good information on what a storm could bring.”
The decision to cancel classes is made by the Office of the President of Keene State College. KSC President Melinda Treadwell reiterated how safety is always a priority. “We are always concerned for the safety of our students, faculty and staff while they are traveling to and from campus as well as while they are on campus. Decisions are made based on the forecast weather and how that will impact safety,” Treadwell said. “KSC utilizes sophisticated weather tracking to watch inclement weather as it approaches New England.”
Not only do winter storms cause trouble for the college but they also cause trouble for the whole city. The city of Keene has more than 52 miles of sidewalks and, according to Keene Highway Superintendent Bill Byrne, the machines required to plow the sidewalks go very slow. “It takes extremely long to plow them,” Byrne said. It takes the city about eight hours to plow a sidewalk with a few inches of snow.
“It’s similar to last year, and last year wasn’t a particularly snowy winter,” Byrne said. “It’s only the middle of February now; we can still get a fair amount.”
Teddy Tauscher can be contacted at