After Beauty and Beast of Storm, UVA Returns to Normal Operations

January 4, 2022 By Matt Kelly, mkelly@virginia.edu Matt Kelly, mkelly@virginia.edu

The University of Virginia was set to return to normal operations Wednesday after two days of modified schedules and activities caused by Monday’s surprisingly strong winter storm that brought a beautiful display – accompanied by headaches for those on Grounds and across the region.

Facilities Management crews and other UVA personnel met the storm head-on, cleaning streets, sidewalks and other areas and assessing the damage to trees bent and broken under the heavy accumulation of wet snow.

“I’m extremely proud of our teams’ dedication to maintaining a safe living and learning environment here on Grounds during and after snowstorms, even when it means being out on Grounds throughout a storm and putting to the side whatever impact it may be causing back at their homes,” Roland Zumbrunn, director of operations for Facilities Management, said. “As is always the case, the past couple of days they’ve done an incredible job supporting the University and I greatly appreciate their hard work.”

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The storm caused electrical outages throughout Central Virginia, including in several upperclass housing areas on Grounds. Dominion Energy crews restored electricity there by 10 p.m. on Monday. Approximately 52,600 area residents were without electricity following the storm, a total that had been reduced to around 24,700 by midday Tuesday.

“This is a snow and wind event,” said Craig Carper, a senior communications specialist with Dominion Energy. “I have not heard of any large lines that are out. It is more of a patchwork.”

The University Police Department said there were no issues or incidents of note at the University Medical Center due to weather. UPD officers responded to a tree limb that fell on a University-owned residence on Seymour Road, damaging the roof of the house and a balcony; no injuries were reported. Another tree limb fell onto an unoccupied Facilities Management truck in the parking lot of Slaughter Recreation Center, causing minor damage to the truck. 

“We will certainly work closely with all of our partners around Grounds to make sure areas are as clear and safe as possible for all students, staff, faculty and visitors,” said Sgt. Ben Rexrode, a spokesman for the University Police Department. 

Old Cabell Hall and the Homer statue were veiled in snow during the surprisingly strong winter storm on Monday.

Approximately 250 Facilities Management employees were involved in cleanup and recovery effort.

“Our full snow plan typically expects around 275 employees for a major winter weather event, but the holiday break and travel challenges decreased that a bit this week,” Zumbrunn said.

The University’s snow plan includes clearing 157 acres of roads and parking lots, as well as approximately 34 miles of sidewalks, including 6 miles of sidewalks, stairs and courtyards that must be shoveled by hand because equipment can’t access them.

Zumbrunn said the snow plan was complicated because the snowstorm occurred immediately after an extended holiday break. There was late notification of the storm, which quickly escalated with intense, heavy snow and significant wind gusts.

Trees on Grounds suffered extensive damage, leading to blocked streets and power outages on Grounds and at employee residences.

“At different times, large areas of Grounds suffered sustained power outages, particularly in North Grounds areas,” Zumbrunn said. “Low temperatures Monday night made surfaces extremely slick on Tuesday morning, because ice-melt products lose effectiveness once temperatures drop into the teens.”

Boar's Head Resort. Winter Wander Trail of Lights.

As a result, the University modified its operational plans for both Monday and Tuesday before returning to normal Wednesday.

To ensure students could get warm and charge electronic devices during power outages, Newcomb Hall was open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday. Clemons Library was open from noon to 6 p.m. The North Grounds Recreation Facility was open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., allowing students an opportunity to exercise and shower. Student Health and Counseling & Psychological Services continued in remote format.

On Monday, UVA announced that January term courses would not meet in person, and faculty would either hold their classes online or reschedule them. Zumbrunn said the switch to online instruction decreased the number of students on Grounds and made the clean-up a bit easier.

University Parking and Transportation also implemented its inclement weather plan, which included temporary bus route consolidation and other modified services.

“Facilities Management is in charge of clearing the parking lots, but we work closely with them on the modified routes and parking restrictions,” Parking & Transportation director Rebecca White said. “The approach is to concentrate parkers inside parking garages, thus allowing Facilities Management to distribute their people and equipment more effectively and position the system for a return to normal more successfully.”

A Facilities Management employee clears a path across the Lawn with a snowblower.
Students walked through a winter wonderland on Grounds during Monday’s storm.
Tree limbs fell on the University’s Lawn.
The New Year storm damaged trees across Grounds.
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A Facilities Management worker removes a downed tree limb.
The heavy snow brought down some large tree limbs on Grounds.

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Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications