Daniel Ketchelos —Staff writer
Blizzards, freezing temperatures, and icy roads are not strangers to those living in northwest Iowa. Still, the 2022-23 winter saw increased amounts of snowfall and cold temperatures compared to the previous few years.
The 2022-23 winter gave a total snowfall amount of about 26 inches from Dec. 21, 2022, to March 11, 2023, for Sioux Center, Iowa. The 2021-22 winter had a snowfall total of about 1.5 inches during the winter season, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.
“Every time we had snow [this season], it was not less than six inches,” Denny Van Veldhuizen, Dordt University Head Groundskeeper, said. “The [snow] piles are big and we’re running out of places [to put it], I’ve had Van Hollins come in and take a few piles so we can continue removing snow, especially from the new big lot.”
Dordt’s grounds department is in charge of removing snow and ice from the parking lot. The department faced a few more challenges when working to clear the campus this year because of the increased snowfall amounts.
“One of our biggest challenges are cars that are parked in lots they’re not supposed to be in,” Van Veldhuizen said. “When we have to scrape from around a car that adds quite a bit of extra time to our snow removal.”
Before every winter season begins, the grounds department has prep work to do to prepare for any potential snowfall.
“We get all our cabs on our tractors, and this year we put new snow tires on our skid loaders, get the blades on our pickups and get all our equipment switched over to winter equipment,” Van Veldhuizen said. “A lot of the equipment we use is utilized year-round, so it [preparation] is just attaching pieces here and there. We don’t switch equipment for any of this.”
When clearing snow from Dordt’s campus, the grounds department utilizes four tractors, three pickups with plow attachments, two skid loaders, and a payloader. Anywhere from six to nine work-study students help clean snow and ice away from doorways and other harder-to-reach areas.
“Last winter, we maybe removed snow twice all winter,” Van Veldhuizen said. “This year, it’s just been big snow [amounts], and bigger snows take us longer to do.”
Complete snow removal takes about five hours of work for the grounds department. The process typically begins early in the morning after the snowfall finishes. Some workers come in as early as 3:45 a.m. to begin clearing snow from Dordt’s campus.
From 1981 to 2010, the average amount of snowfall in northwest Iowa is 34.8 inches, recorded by NOAA. The 2022-2023 winter season is still under the average from the last 40 years, but this year’s totals have been more than the previous few winter seasons.
Snowfall may continue past the winter season into the spring. The normal date for the last inch of snowfall averages around March 20 to March 26 for northwest Iowa, according to the NOAA.