My View: Prepping for winter's worst weather

Mark Selivan oversees grounds at Homewood, Johns Hopkins at Eastern, the JHU Press, and the School of Education

Credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

"This large collection of pallets is my line of defense against winter—namely the ice it brings. Each pallet weighs roughly a ton. We use two types of products here: sodium chloride—salt—and magnesium chloride pellets. The salt, which everyone is familiar with, is used mainly on our roadways and parking lots. The magnesium chloride is used for all our inner campus walks and stairwells. The two products couldn't be more different. Salt is extremely caustic, and overuse or misuse can be harmful to many surfaces and plants. Magnesium chloride, on the other hand, is safe for ornamental surfaces and safe for plants. Application of both is more of a science than people think. Timing, concentrations, and technique have a lot to do with your effect upon ice control.

"I have made a living working outdoors, so you can say I am a weather junkie or a pocket meteorologist. I have three weather stations on campus, subscribe to three weather services, and track the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration like Yogi tracking a picnic basket.

"My staff likes to joke that I have a red button that I press when the call to action comes. Usually 48 hours before an event, I brief staff members in regard to a possible call to duty and we prep accordingly. Until the event passes, my staff and contractors are ready to react.

"I grew up in New England and lived in Chicago for 12 years. I know snow and ice. Sometimes I am amazed at what passes for snowfall here in Maryland. I always hope for a mild winter because doing snow removal is rough, and probably the hardest thing to make people happy with. Will we have another mild winter this year? Ask me in the spring."

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