What is there to say about Winter Storm Jonas? Not very much on our campus. To go by the vista offered by High Rise Field on Saturday morning, no student could be rebuked for thinking we’d get to February before attending class again. And yet, in a flurry of activity, the hardy men and women of Facilities and Real Estate Services undid the weather’s work — by Monday morning, you could have walked down Locust Walk in flip flops without any trouble. We salute their efforts in keeping us high and dry.
To the eldest among us, this should be no surprise. In the fall of 2012, a storm of more apocalyptic proportions bore down on West Philadelphia. And while the East Coast’s major metropolises were then also made inoperable by Hurricane Sandy, Penn’s campus got away with only a few leaf piles where they shouldn’t have been.
This is a bigger job than it seems — one requiring not only the determination of the people in trucks and movers, but also logistical masterwork. Locust Walk was pretreated from 34th Street to 40th in the days before the storm arrived.
By dawn Saturday morning, the same path was full not of snow but of snowplows. Small bulldozers, manual shovels and full-sized trucks with snowplows wide enough to carry a whole day’s worth of flyerers neutralized the historic storm, enabling the University to send a confident “Normal Operations” email by Sunday night.
Students were able to get to class on Monday unimpeded by snowdrifts. Penn’s efforts both before and after the snowstorm led to a minimum of hazard and trouble for inhabitants on campus.
And yet, it must be acknowledged that while Locust and its immediate surroundings may have been thoroughly cleared for the operation of the University, some of the community around us has been left frozen. A sinkhole, having erupted before the storm, has left 40th Street between Walnut and Chestnut yet unplowed. Similarly, Irving Street between 40th and 41st streets has turned into a virtual (and dangerous) ice skating rink. As our neighborhood and its residents dig themselves out of the blizzard and return to normalcy, it would behoove Philadelphia to follow Penn’s example.
Amidst other administrative gaffes that Penn has made in the past, it was heartening to see a prepared and well-executed effort by the University yield such positive results. We hope that other parts of the administration can learn from FRES’ efforts to tame Jonas, Sandy and all of nature’s more expressive children.
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