The four weeks of snow that buried Fort Collins in the last month – sometimes leaving more than two feet of powder – cost both CSU and the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The university hired several private contractors to clean up the mess, spending at least $80,000 to haul some of the massive amounts of snow to Hughes Stadium, and spending more than $40,000 in overtime pay and equipment rentals.
“This storm was the worst we have had in four years,” said Brian Chase, director of Facilities Management at CSU. “Normally we are fine, but when we get two feet of snow at a time, we just can’t keep up with it. This is very unusual for this time of year.”
The first blizzard hit Fort Collins Dec. 20, leaving 20.1 inches of snow behind and prompting CSU to close for three-and-a-half days.
About a week later, a second storm brought 10 to 12 inches to the area. A third and fourth left much less. Bitter overnight temperatures dipped below zero degrees Fahrenheit over the weekend.
Chase said that because the snow is already much heavier than usual for this time of year, CSU is training more people, gearing up with de-icing equipment and buying more equipment – including two Bobcats, each at a price of $20,000, – to help clear the snow quickly and efficiently.
Other than some minor leaks, the campus suffered no major damage.
“We had a great crew of guys working 12- to 14-hour shifts, sometimes doubles,” Chase said. “We dug out the married and international housing as quickly as possible in an effort to let them get to grocery stores or wherever they needed to go.”
Mike Gavin, battalion chief of Poudre Fire Authority and emergency manager of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), said the first storm cost the city about $500,000, the second closer to $225,000.
“The first two storms brought about 30 inches of snow,” Gavin said. “The costs only reflect the first 72 hours of the storms. There are other costs including damage to vehicles and cleanup for the Poudre School District (and CSU) that are not included.”
Gavin said many don’t realize the amount of people needing medical care during a storm.
Two infants were born during the first two storms. One mother delivered at home, prompting the city to plow a route to her home to allow an ambulance to take her and her newborn to the hospital. Another mother who was in labor was bundled up for a ride in a snowplow to the hospital.
Gavin said many residents were also in need of medicines, baby formula and oxygen. Twelve Fort Collins residents also had to be transported to receive kidney dialysis.
Both Chase and Gavin said the storm came at a good time. If CSU students were in town, plowing would have been more difficult, Chase said.
“The coordination between city services was excellent,” Gavin said. “They did a great job.through the hours and hours it took to clean up.”
City Manager Darrin Atteberry declared a snow emergency on Dec. 20 and 21 for Fort Collins.
Atteberry again declared a local emergency on Dec. 28 and requested that Gov. Bill Owens proclaim a state of disaster emergency for Fort Collins, because dealing with the snow exceeded local available resources.
Denver was also affected by the storms. During the first storm, some 4,500 people were stranded at Denver International Airport, including some students and faculty.
Some local businesses, however, profited from the so-called state of disaster.
Phil Pringle, owner of Pringles liquor store, said when snow comes to Fort Collins, his business flourishes.
“When it snows, we love it,” Pringle said. “I find the worse the weather, the more business there is.”
Although no snow is forecasted for this upcoming week, the temperatures are expected to be in the single digits.
Staff writer Nikki Cristello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.