Grounds team tackles big snow

12/11/2009 | By: Jane Tors  |

When a major storm is predicted, the University’s grounds department shifts to on-call status, with all employees prepared to report to work at 5 a.m. Tommy Lean, assistant director of facilities operations, sets his alarm clock even earlier, since he will be up at 3 a.m. to assess the situation and determine whether or not the crew will report to work early.

At about 5:45 a.m. Monday, Dec. 7, University officials began to initiate communication channels to announce a delayed start of classes and services due to snow. At about 8:30 a.m., after several more inches blanketed the Truckee Meadows, the decision to close campus and cancel classes was made and communicated.

In his 28 years with the University, Lean doesn’t recall another storm that resulted in the cancellation of classes for a full day. Although campus has closed due to weather, it has happened on days with no classes scheduled. The most recent closure was Jan. 2 and 3, 1997, when the region experienced significant flooding. A major snow storm on New Year’s Eve in 2004 would likely have closed campus had the next day not been a holiday.

Whether it snows an inch or a foot, the grounds team knows their assignment, which includes the allocation of equipment and the specific area assigned to each employee.

“I couldn’t say enough about them,” said Lean. “They come in at 2 degrees below zero and they are out there on a piece of equipment. You’ll see icicles hanging from the mustaches of those that have them.

“They want to get the job done for students, faculty and staff, so it’s safe for them,” he added. “It’s an excellent bunch of people, and it doesn’t matter whether its 2 degrees below or 108, they get the job done.”

“I am very inspired by the grounds crew,” said University President Milt Glick. “This is a beautiful campus and they take great pride in keeping it that way. Even more impressive is how they interact with students, faculty, staff and visitors. They are quick to smile and say hello, and they routinely ask campus visitors if they need assistance.”

When it comes to keeping campus as clear of ice and snow as possible, Lean is also quick to credit the campus custodians. Many of them clear the steps of their buildings, even though it is not an assigned responsibility.

Monday’s campus closure served as a reminder of the role and importance of the University’s emergency alert system, which notifies students, faculty and staff of campus emergencies and closures by text message or e-mail.

Sign up to receive emergency messages. Use your University-issued “Net ID” and your password, and have your cell phone available as you will need it to complete the registration process and validate your request. Once you complete the registration and validate your mobile phone number and e-mail address, you can log into your personal-alerts account to add additional numbers and e-mail addresses or change existing information.

A link to sign up for emergency alerts is also available on the University’s home page. If you have questions or need assistance registering for the emergency alert system, contact Ed Atwell, Police Services program officer, at (775) 682-7247 or


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