Focused plowing, throwing and shoveling by the Landscape Services team kept key University of Nebraska–Lincoln services open — including those related to COVID-19 testing — as record-setting snow fell on Jan. 25.
“It was a difficult day in terms of staying ahead of the storm, but our team responded,” said Jeff Culbertson, assistant director of landscape operations. “We worked across campus, while also making certain that the University Health Center, Veterinary Diagnostics Center and student housing areas were accessible and open.”
Jim Jackson, associate vice chancellor of university operations, said the Landscape Services team consulted regularly with the university’s COVID-19 task force to direct the work, allowing saliva-based test processing to continue at the Veterinary Diagnostics Center. They also developed plans that allowed saliva collection to continue unabated at various campus sites on Jan. 26.
Snow removal efforts at the University Health Center allowed seven students to seek medical assistance. Health center staff also filled 40 prescriptions and conducted two nasal-based COVID-19 tests.
“Without the incredible work of the Landscape Services team, we would have struggled to be open and may have been unable to support the medical needs of our campus community,” said Dr. Heather Eberspacher, medical director of the UHC. “Their dedication showed throughout the day, from helping clear sidewalks so we could open to staying late and making sure our staff members were able to get on the road safely.”
When complete, the storm caused a rare back-to-back snow day closure (Jan. 25-26) for the university, delaying the start of the “spring” semester. According to the National Weather Service, the storm dropped 14.5 inches of snow, the second highest, one-day total for Lincoln since 1949.
Culbertson said the Landscape Services team worked around 30 hours clearing the snow from the university’s 35 miles of sidewalks and 84.5 acres of parking.
“We hated to delay the start of the semester by another day, but this was that one rare occurrence when the snow kept falling and our team could not clear it out and guarantee the safety of the campus community,” Culbertson said. “It’s been a very long time since we’ve had a snow this heavy. I know it gave my big diesel truck all it could handle today.”
Despite the added challenge, Culbertson said the team remained upbeat and positive about clearing campus.
“We have an amazing bunch of folks who, right now, are very tired but excited because they were able to help,” Culbertson said. “It may sound cliché, but like all facilities staff who work behind scenes, our crew members are big fans of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and take pride in helping it run seamlessly day after day.”