Heroes lend a hand inhistoric blizzard

Fermilab employees worked to keep roads clear during the 2011 blizzard, and cleared parking lots and sidewalks Wednesday, Feb. 2, so employees could return to work safely on Thursday.

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on the teams and individuals who helped to keep the accelerators running and the roads and residents safe at the laboratory. The second article will run next week.

When a historic blizzard hit the Chicago area on Feb. 2, most people rode out the storm in the warmth of their homes. However, some dedicated Fermilab employees worked through the blinding snow and gale-force winds to keep the laboratory operating and its residents safe.

Members of the Housing Office, Roads and Grounds, Security Division and the Facility Engineering and Services Section stayed through the night, working together to clear roads, fix power outages and handle the many challenges posed by the extreme weather.

“The Roads and Grounds group was definitely operating as a team,” Randy Ortgiesen, head of FESS. “They had the courage to operate equipment in near zero visibility and the wisdom to stop and wait when conditions required it.”

Dave Shemanske was just one of the individuals operating plows and escorting emergency and security personnel through the laboratory as they coped with a variety of challenges.

At 9:45 p.m. Tuesday night, blizzard conditions caused power lines in Fermilab Village to snap leaving many residents without power or heat. The Main Injector also suffered a power loss.

Shemanske and the roads and grounds crew came to Barbara Oddone’s rescue Wednesday morning, digging her out and assisting her to Site 58 where there was power and heat.

FESS personnel arrived Wednesday and worked with local utility providers through the night to restore power to the entire Village and the Main Injector.

Accommodations Manager, Jack Hawkins, and personnel from the Communications Center were available to answer questions and direct residents on where to go to stay warm and safe.

“Crews across laboratory sections and divisions worked very hard during this storm to keep the roads clear for operations personnel and emergency vehicles,” said Bruce Chrisman, chief operations officer. “Thanks to the hard work of all of the crews involved, Fermilab roads were navigable and the site up and running when much of the surrounding area was not.”

On Feb. 3, when many schools and businesses were still buried in snow, Fermilab reopened with its roads clear and experiments running.

Cynthia Horwitz

Two members of Fermilab’s Roads and Grounds crew clear sidewalks on Wednesday, Feb. 2, after a blizzard.