Go to page content

After the storm

Snowclearing at Memorial a ‘round-the-clock’ job

Campus and Community

By Meaghan Whelan

In a typical year, the city of St. John’s receives a whopping 10.5 feet of snow.

Not all at once, of course, but throughout the winter months it is a safe bet there will be at least one snow day for Memorial’s St. John’s campuses.

For some employees, the start of a storm is not a signal to burrow under blankets but a time to bundle up and battle the elements.


“Snow clearing is a 24/7 operation at Memorial,” explained Ann Browne, associate vice-president (facilities).

“On the St. John’s campus, 130 grounds and custodial staff are available and are focused on getting building entrances, roads and pathways cleared to ensure the campus is safe for pedestrians and drivers.”

When bad weather hits and safety is a concern, the decision to cancel classes and labs or to close the St. John’s, Signal Hill and Marine Institute campuses is made by the university president (or his designate).

Snowclearing at Memorial is a 24/7 operation

While the campus is closed, crews work around the clock to ensure the Health Sciences Centre (HSC) and the exits to residence buildings remain clear and safe to use. The team is even responsible for climbing onto the HSC roof to clear the vents that remove heat and smoke in the event of a fire.

Ready and able

Six front-end loaders, a backhoe, two salt/sand trucks, two bobcats and a raft of handheld shovels are available to clear the St. John’s campus. During a closure, the crew can work away with few interruptions and will only take a break in zero-visibility conditions.

When conditions have improved and main entrances, primary pedestrian paths, roads and parking lots have been cleared, Memorial will reopen.

“After a significant snowfall, it takes time to return to full, regular operations,” Ms. Browne said. “Our staff continue to work until things are back to normal.”

There are 24 buildings connected to the MUNnel system

Ms. Browne encourages those on campus to use the MUNnel system to navigate between buildings during adverse weather and while snow clearing operations continue.

“The MUNnel network of skywalks and underground tunnels is a great way to get around campus. It keeps users safe, dry and out of the elements,” she said.

For those that do venture outside, or are entering campus for the first time, it is important to know that main entrances to buildings are cleared first.

“Every building has at least two or three entrances (and paths leading to them). It takes time to get things clear,” Ms. Browne explained.

339 doorways need to be cleared after a snowfall

“The route that you take on a clear, sunny day may not be the safest route available to you immediately following a storm. Take a bit of extra time, use main entrances and the MUNnel system to navigate around campus,” said Ms. Browne.

Report via MUN Safe

Memorial uses the MUN Safe app to communicate campus closures. It can also be used to report unsafe conditions.

Those reports are used to allocate staff to all corners of campus and address issues that administration may not otherwise be aware of.

Reports can be made at any time in the app, but the system may not be monitored 24 hours a day. In the event of an emergency that requires immediate action, contact Campus Enforcement and Patrol directly at 864-4100.

Report unsafe conditions via MUN Safe

‘We depend on them’

Snow clearing at Memorial is an important, time-consuming job, says Ms. Browne.

“I’d like to thank our snow-clearing staff. They work very hard in challenging conditions to make our campus safe. In a prolonged event, like the back-to-back storms we experienced in January, they work one shift on, one shift off, until the campus is fully cleared and back to normal. We depend on them.”

To receive news from Memorial in your inbox, subscribe to Gazette Now.

Latest News

‘Rigorous, timely evidence’

Canada Research Chair in Pharmacy to continue informing policy development

A moment in time

Solar eclipse connected people through science

Presidential search

Update on progress April 10, 2024

People, place and books

Labrador Campus’ first academic librarian blends campus with community

Microplastics and pregnancy

Memorial tapped by federal government to investigate public health concern

Grenfell leadership update

Dr. Ken Jacobsen appointed interim vice-president (Grenfell Campus)