Weathering the West Michigan winter

GVL / Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye

Hannah Lentz

Though you may not think so from looking outside at the lack of usual snow, Grand Valley State University is currently prepping for severe winter weather within the GVSU police department and facilities services.

During a typical winter season, $60,000 to $75,000 is spent on campus snow removal at GVSU, including elements such as contractors and equipment. These costs depend on snowfall, necessary materials and the harshness of the season. The university also has a contract for salt purchases and is responsible for 70 percent of the ordered salt no matter what the weather is like that year. GVSU’s bagged salt vendor provides an average of 50 to 60 tons of salt to the university.

Grand Rapids typically gets between 72 to 75 inches of snow during the winter season, Stanton said. Though the area has not seen that much snowfall yet, facilities services is ready for when the snow does come.

“We plan on winter being the same as the year before regardless of what it looks like at the time,” said GVSU grounds supervisor Ken Stanton. “It’s better to be prepared than to not have enough materials.”

However, a less harsh winter does mean less cost for facilities services. When the university experiences a harsh winter, there are added costs in repairs of plows, snow removal, extra supplies and overtime pay, Stanton said. Whatever money is saved this year will be added to the fund for next year’s winter season.

“We have to be prepared for the worst case scenario,” Stanton said. “We’ve been ready for intense weather since last week and have all the materials that we need for this year’s snowfall.”

Along with snow removal preparation also comes consideration of the factors that go into determining the need for school cancellation due to extreme weather. Since GVSU has a large student population that commutes to campus, it can often be a challenge to get to campus in weather that impacts road safety.

School cancellation recommendations can come from facilities staff members, police department employees and other members of the university.

“We look to keep open communication in our goal to keep campus open,” said Capt. Brandon DeHaan of the GVPD. “There will be periods of time where extreme weather will cause campus to close, but it is the intent of the university to stay open and ensure open and available travel through campus.”

GVPD also encourages drivers to use Laker Village Drive compared to North Campus Drive to avoid students who are walking onto campus. When roads are icy and there is heavy snowfall, it is important to be cautious of sliding cars, rear ending and losing control while behind the wheel.

“We encourage students to be patient,” DeHaan said. “It is winter, motorists need to be driving slower and giving themselves more time to get to the places they need to go.”

Winter driving tips from GVPD:

1. Consider purchasing all-season tires or snow tires

2. Make sure you have proper wiper blades on your car that are not prone to icing up

3. Brush off the snow and scrape windows clean of ice, including the top of the vehicle

4. Put a survival kit in your car in case of a crash, include a blanket, shovel, food, etc.

5. The most important thing is to slow down when driving in snow