Heavy snowfall and chilly temperatures are just a couple of the characteristics of the El Niño weather pattern expected in New Mexico this winter. Over the last six weeks, the Physical Plant Department (PPD) Grounds and Landscaping division has reviewed and updated a comprehensive snow response plan for the University to deal with what could be a winter for the record-books.

PPD Grounds & Landscaping collaborates with many UNM departments in preparation for inclement weather and campus closures. They include Parking &Transportation Services (PATS), the UNM Police Department, Residence Life & Student Housing (RLSH), Safety & Risk Services (SRS), and other campus entities to ensure the snow response plans are up-to-date, priority areas are appropriately categorized, and the responsibilities of each department are clearly defined and communicated. 

“Every one of these departments are motivated by keeping our campus safe for the community when bad weather strikes,” said Willie West, manager of PPD Grounds & Landscaping.

West explains that specific areas of campus are classified by priority after a snowfall to enable emergency crews to navigate on campus should there be any injuries. The first areas addressed for snow removal are areas that perform patient care, emergency vehicle access points on roadways, and primary traffic routes. After these areas are cleared, then interior campus sidewalks, building entrances, and secondary streets are cleared.

“The Grounds & Landscaping division of PPD employs 34 staff members, and in the case of inclement weather, these employees are primarily responsible for clearing the campus of ice and snow that can be a safety concern on campus,” West said.

PPD has a fleet of plow trucks, spreaders, and other smaller vehicles that are equipped to quickly lay de-icing materials such as sand, road salt, and ice melt to sidewalks and roadways. They store enough of this material to respond to four, average-sized snow events on campus, due to limitations of storage space. 

“It is the goal of the Physical Plant Department to make all areas of UNM safe and accessible for motorist and pedestrians as quickly as possible after a snowfall," West said. "All parts of the campus are important and will be cleared, however, certain critical areas will receive higher priority. Please be patient and observant of the staff performing snow and ice removal operations in order to allow them to complete the process quickly and efficiently,” West said.