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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Feb. 29, 2008

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

by Paula Van Brocklin

This winter's snowstorms have taken a toll on Iowa State's salt and sand supplies. But even if Mother Nature whips up more spring storms, ISU's streets, sidewalks, bike paths and parking lots will be treated.

So far this winter, campus services crews have spread 316 tons of salt, 719 tons of sand and 60 tons of chloride on 23 miles of roads, 34 miles of sidewalks and bike paths, and 162 acres of parking lots. And, they did it 20 days in December, 14 days in January and 12 days in February. Compare that to all of last winter, when campus services used only 235 tons of salt, 277 tons of sand and 25 tons of chloride.

"It's been about every other day that we've had a snow event this year," said Les Lawson, manager of facilities maintenance for facilities planning and management. "Other years, we've had 10-inch snowstorms but we'd have a week to get it cleared. This year, we've had three-inch events or smaller but it happens every other day."

Despite the rough weather, Lawson said there's little chance the university will run out of salt and sand. But that doesn't mean supplies are plentiful. Chloride, which is mixed with sand for sidewalks and bike paths because it's gentler on concrete, already is depleted after ISU's supplier canceled its last two loads. Campus services came up with an alternative that's doing the trick.

Iowa State usually gets salt and sand from the Iowa Department of Transportation in Ames. Last month, however, the DOT told ISU to start tapping into Boone County's supply. If Boone County's reserves run low, there is another stockpile 40 miles north in Williams.

What if March unfurls its wrath with spring ice storms, and the salt runs out?

"We'll just use sand if we have to," Lawson said. "It just won't have the melting effect. But I don't think we'll run out. I think we're in good shape."


By the numbers

What it takes to clear the entire ISU campus of snow and ice:

  • 47 campus services employees plow, blow and treat streets, sidewalks, bike paths and parking lots
  • More than 100 custodial employees shovel building entrances, plus an additional 10 feet from the doors
  • 16 broom tractors sweep sidewalks and bike paths
  • 15 truck and tractor plows clear streets
  • 3 sidewalk sanders/blowers remove snow from parking lots and sidewalks
  • 1 loader removes snow from loading docks