In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

March 12, 2019

Snow Problem: Staff Work Around the Clock to Keep Mayo Open During Blizzard

By In the Loop

Minnesotans are quite familiar with the chore that is snow removal, but last month's blizzard put even the heartiest Minnesotans to the test — a test that Mayo grounds crews passed with flying colors.

Shortly after midnight on Sunday, Feb. 24, Matt Anderson arrived at Mayowood and discovered the extent of the problem he faced. The gates to the property, which opened inward, were blocked by a five-foot snowdrift. But like the Postal Service, "neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night" were going to keep Anderson, a member of the grounds team that cares for Mayo Clinic's historic properties, from doing his job. "He had to walk around the gate, up the half-mile driveway to the garage at Mayowood and get out the Bobcat then work his way back down," Chuck Potter, Mayo's director of Historic Properties, says.

All in a day's (or night's) work for Anderson and colleagues, who worked tirelessly to clear snow and keep Mayo Clinic up and running during the epic storm that dropped 12 inches of the white stuff on Rochester in just 24 hours — and then blew it around with 40 MPH winds. "I've worked here 19 years and I've never seen anything like it," Nick Queensland says of the snowstorm and staff response. Queensland, supervisor of Facility Operations and Ground Maintenance, and his snow patrol began preparing for the job days in advance. "We use a subscription weather service that gives us hourly updates, so we had a pretty good sense of exactly what was coming our way," he says. "We started gearing up for it on Thursday."

Part of that gearing up included literally getting more gear: a fifth Bobcat for Queensland's staff of seven, who would join close to 100 contractors working around the clock to clear snow from the walkways and parking lots around Mayo's downtown campus and outlying buildings, including the Kasson Clinic, Northeast Clinic, and Superior Drive Support Center. Over about 24 hours, they'd clear more than 100 acres of parking space and hard surfaces. (That's about 5,000 dump trucks full of snow, for those keeping track at home.) Potter's crew tended to Mayo's historic properties, while another team focused on clearing snow from Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester, Saint Marys Campus.

"We absolutely needed every person working to get the snow cleared," Queensland says. So when one of his staff members couldn't get to work through the unplowed streets of Rochester, Queensland got creative. "We have a truck with a plow that sprays liquid salt, and I drove that to pick him up," he says. "I easily drove past 100 abandoned cars to get to him. It was surreal. It didn't feel like Rochester." The contractors working alongside Mayo staff were similarly committed, Queensland tells us. "Some of our contractors were driving tractors to get their staff. It was more than just a Mayo Clinic effort. They were just as committed to our patients and keeping campus safe and accessible."

"I appreciate and I am very proud of the efforts put in by so many," Potter tells us. "The times of challenge always seem to bring out the best."

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Tags: Chuck Potter, Employee Stories, Facility Operations and Ground Maintenance, Matt Anderson, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Mayowood, Nick Queensland

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