Reed Facilities Sloughs Off Snow

Steve Yeadon speaks to winter weather management on campus

Old Dorm Block and the collapsed dining tent. Photo by Albert Kerelis.

Old Dorm Block and the collapsed dining tent. Photo by Albert Kerelis.

Last week saw Reed College, along with much of the Pacific Northwest, blanketed in snow that — while initially beautiful — quickly gave way to some catastrophic consequences. The Quest sat down with Facilities Manager Steve Yeadon to discuss Reed’s preparation for and response to the recent bout of wintry weather. When asked if facilities expected such an impactful storm, Yeadon said that “nobody had that crystal ball, really. I mean, we knew there was really likely potential… We knew something was coming. We were very well prepared for it.” Yeadon said that pretreatment for the snow was actually very effective this past week: “Oftentimes with winter weather events, we get a lot of rain ahead of it, and you can’t pretreat because it all just washes away, and then it snows, you get ice and there’s nothing there anyway, so it actually kind of worked out pretty well for that.”

One thing that Yeadon said facilities was less prepared for was the impact the storm would have on the tents that had been set up on campus for outdoor dining and classes. “We had an entire crew of folks that were just working on trying to keep snow and ice off of the tents all day Friday and into the night. And you know with the freezing rain, we just couldn’t keep up with the build-up. And you know, ultimately those twoㅡwell, three tents reallyㅡended up failing, because the quad tent is really two tents.”

Facilities did see some successes, however, in quickly clearing pathways after the storm. “We have a snow removal map that we go by, and we sort of start in the center of campus and work our way out towards the residence halls, hitting those arterials that get people to and from resident quadrants to the commons. Then we start working on getting pathways cleared to the parking lots and from the parking lots to academic buildings and getting the steps and the ramps and things like that cleared off is kind of the way we approach it. This year, we actually got to activate our partnership with Moore Excavation, who we’ve had on contract for a number of years, but they provide snow removal.” Yeadon praised the help of Moore Excavation in getting campus clear, saying they were “enormously helpful for us and got us really well prepared for Monday.”

The snow removal strategies differed this year, as the snow was distinct from what Portland normally gets during winter storm events. “We usually get what I call cascade concrete, which is really wet snow, then when you walk and drive on it, it just turns to slick ice and it’s really hard to navigate. This stuff was actually pretty easy to walk on. In some cases, less was more. We kind of found that we were better off leaving a little bit of the loose sort of snow… on top of the  ice, and it… actually had better traction for people to walk on.”

The collapsed academic tent with Eliot Hall in the background. Photo by Albert Kerelis.

The collapsed academic tent with Eliot Hall in the background. Photo by Albert Kerelis.

After paths are cleared, Yeadon explained that attention goes to clearing brush debris for the landscape crew and roof maintenance for the maintenance crew. “[The storm] event was followed by… a fair amount of rain, and your biggest concern is that your roof drains and downspouts will fill up with ice and ice over. And then now you’re adding all this melted snow and ice, plus rain that’s just getting heavier. It’s got nowhere to go, you get a build up, it starts going over your roofing protection, over the flashing, and you get some infiltration into buildings. And we had very little of that. I think there were a few areas in the library where we had some water build-up, we had some clogged drains, and we had a little water infiltration over the top of the flashing.” Yeadon explained that this sort of work poses some unique challenges, noting “That’s a really precarious time to access roofs. … When you’ve got that kind of snow and ice build-up, there are areas on those roofs that my staff just can’t safely get to.”

One of the biggest effects on the Portland area at large was power continuity, but Reed fared relatively well, largely due to a stroke of seemingly-rare good luck. “Given all the power outage around… the metro area, and greater Clackamas County. … We fared really well. I think we had… two days that we were without power in the language houses, chemistry, in studio arts, and psychology, and we had backup generation for the academic buildings. So… the animal colonies had heat and power. We were super fortunate that Portland General Electric got power restored as quickly as they did on Woodstock, which was utterly amazing. So I think we fared really well in that regard.” Yeadon remarked, “I don’t like to rely on luck, but I’ll take it when I get it.”

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