Warriors of winter

Associate Director for Operations Support
Randy Ortgiesen

With many good topics to write about, I began earlier this month to draft today’s column in my mind. The column highlighted the great progress on the muon campus; the WDRS annual meeting I recently attended to hear a review of FY13 successes and FY14 plans; the lab’s efforts to create a new lab agenda to help guide and communicate our objectives; funding for our first Science Laboratory Infrastructure utility upgrade project to fund the replacement of the main electrical master substation; and progress on implementing the Fermilab Campus Master Plan. All of these efforts clearly demonstrate a positive direction for Fermilab.

But then I woke up to another couple of inches of snow and ice. As I was clearing my driveway (again), I was reminded of how emotionally and physically tired I’ve been with snow removal this season. You’ve heard all of the winter weather stats on the news about our third-snowiest winter in history. With double the typical snowfall and weather events, we’ve had to double the labor and salt to remove the snow here at the lab. At Fermilab, we’re up to 65½ inches of snow, handled by 42 different call-outs (after-hour snow removal events) and with 1,200 tons of salt, which were dispersed on 32 miles of roads and 122 acres of parking lots. You may have also noticed that we’re mixing salt with sand to help extend our remaining 450 tons of salt as long as possible. This will be particularly useful when temperatures fall below zero, as has happened 22 days so far this winter.

You’ll hear more at a later date on the great progress the lab is making to prepare and execute plans for our future. Today, instead, I want to recognize the winter warriors. They have responded remarkably once again to one of our most challenging winters. They keep laboratory roads, parking lots, walkways and electrical equipment clear of snow and ice to allow the laboratory to continue operations in a safe and reliable manner.

Not only did these crews from FESS Roads and Grounds, division and section building management, electricians, high-voltage engineers and janitorial staff superbly battle the snow, ice and wind, they also had to ensure that storm drains, culverts, ditches and sump pumps were freely flowing last week with the unusually warmer temperatures and rain. Additionally, a January power outage and associated lost heating in subzero temperatures took place in the Village due to a winter storm.

Unless these winter warriors are specifically recognized, we might begin to take for granted the outstanding support they’ve provided at all hours of the day and night to ensure the laboratory is open for business and that its scientific mission is being carried out. I thank them for their ongoing efforts in all types of weather. Here’s looking forward to spring.