Cornell staff conquer Storm Stella

Nancy Doolittle
During the snowstorm, Stella, approximately one dozen staff each from Building Care and Maintenance departments and 50 staff from Grounds battled the effects of the storm and kept essential operations functioning.

Editor’s note: The article below captures just a sampling of the work staff performed to keep essential functions operating across Cornell’s Ithaca campus during last week’s snowstorm.


For many staff, Cornell’s closing of the Ithaca campus at noon, March 14, through 4:30 p.m., March 15, meant they could be home with their children during the worst of the late-season snowstorm as area school districts closed and county travel bans went into effect.

For those whose work could be done remotely, the storm also meant working from home to keep Cornell operations and administrative functions running seamlessly.

And for many others, the snowstorm Stella, which left about 15 inches of snow on the ground, meant pitching in wherever the need was greatest and ramping up the service they provide to Cornell on a daily basis.

In the Division of Infrastructure, Properties and Planning, for instance, a dozen plow trucks and 10 sidewalk tractors were deployed to clear more than 61 miles of sidewalks, 15 miles of roadway and 114 acres of campus lots, according to Ben Kuo, associate vice president for facilities management, and Dan Schied, director for grounds.

“While the university was closed for most, Facilities Management – including Building Care, Grounds and Maintenance – continued working to ensure the safety of our residential communities as well as the stewardship of our facilities and the ongoing research within,” said Kuo. “It’s with great appreciation that I would thank all these staff members for their dedication in providing services around the clock to the campus while the same challenging conditions also affected their families back home.”

On Tuesday, approximately one dozen staff each from Building Care and Maintenance departments and 50 staff from Grounds battled the effects of the storm and kept essential operations functioning, with many working extended shifts or spending Tuesday night at a nearby hotel. On Wednesday, Maintenance staff were increased to 36, and Building Care staff to 160.

“The staff did a great job and we kept campus systems running, supplying heat, electricity, cooling and domestic water to the campus continuously during the two days of storm weather,” said Lanny Joyce, director of utilities and energy management.

Also working around the clock were the staff members from Cornell University Police and Environmental Health and Safety. “We appreciate our emergency management and services staff who monitored weather conditions, responded to emergency calls, and assisted with communications to the campus community," said Christine Stallmann, associate vice president for Environmental Health and Safety.

Chief of Police Kathy Zoner is especially grateful for the ways in which the Cornell community facilitated the work of those dealing with the effects of the storm: “In situations like this it is important for people to read the emergency messages and heed their advice. We are pleased at the response of our community, which made safer passage for emergency responders and eased snow removal by keeping vehicular and pedestrian traffic off the roads and sidewalks.”

At the College of Veterinary Medicine, staff who worked during the university closure included veterinary technicians; admissions, discharge and animal care staff; pharmacists; veterinary interns and residents; lab technicians; administrative and financial staff; staff who receive, process and perform diagnostic tests; and many student employees.

Similar staffing needs were met in other colleges across campus that are in charge of caring for animals and plants.

The Statler Hotel remained open for the two-day storm, with a full range of employees working, including housekeepers, food service workers, maintenance workers, supervisors, managers and student employees. “I am so grateful to the many staff and student heroes who contributed to serving our many guests that became stranded, as well as housing Cornell Dining staff who were working to continue to feed the students,” said Richard Adie ’75, Statler Hotel’s managing director. About 20 hotel employees spent the night in the hotel each night.

Campus Life paid for 44 of their staff to stay at the Statler Tuesday night to minimize the interruption to Cornell Dining and to continue the room selection process for housing. The community centers on North Campus and most residential dining rooms were kept open for the duration of the storm, with staff working extra hours. Bear Necessities was kept open for nearly its full hours and Amit Bhatia Libe Café was re-opened as soon as possible so that students could study there.

Cornell Dining’s Dustin Cutler, director; Paul Muscente, associate director; and Steven Miller, director of culinary management, recorded a YouTube video Thank You to dining staff.