Walla Walla Grapples with Consequences of Extended Winter

Rylee Neville, Staff Reporter

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The unusually cold weather has affected the Whitman Campus as well as the community of Walla Walla. With the cumulation of snow and ice, Walla Walla residents, including Whitman professors, have had to suffer through the conditions. However, efforts are being made by the city of Walla Walla to decrease any inconvenience the snowfall may have brought.

Walla Walla Mayor, Barbara Clark, understands the inconvenience of the snow to many of the town’s residents and points to specific effects of the extended winter.

“Although some folks have happily put on their cross-country skis and taken to the unplowed residential streets, my sense is that this much prolonged snow has been inconvenient at best for most people. The city probably sees several impacts,” Mayor Clark said.

“[There are] more traffic accidents resulting from inexperienced or inattentive drivers, more hours and overtime for Street Department employees, more snowpack to fill Mill Creek and our aquifer storage wells this Spring, and likely a decrease in local retail sales — therefore a decrease in sales tax revenue — as some people turn to online purchasing to avoid driving,” Mayor Clark said.  

According to the mayor, sales tax revenue helps pay for city services, including snow plowing. The decrease in sales tax revenue arising from people staying indoors and not consuming products from local stores contributes to the road conditions.

George Bell, the Street Supervisor for the Public Works Department, looks at the snow buildup on public roads. The main effect from the constant snowfall has been the increase in residents commute times.

“I think for the most part it has just slowed everyone down some. It appears to me that everyone is still conducting business as usual,” Bell said.

The constant snowfall has made it t difficult for public schools to clear the roads in time for students to attend classes. This, in turn, affects some of Whitman’s professors.

Geology Professor Lyman Persico has brought his second grade son, Paul, to Whitman on multiple occasions due to public school closures.

“My wife works from home as a consultant. She is often times out of town for work. When schools are delayed or cancelled, it is really hard to get child care on such a short notice. I just have no other options,” Persico said.

Persico praises the Whitman grounds crew for their remarkable upkeep for the Whitman campus sidewalks and roads.

“The roads on campus are really clear compared to anywhere else in town. That’s part of the problem,” Persico said.

Persico also addresses why Whitman has not cancelled classes despite the weather conditions affecting other schools in the area.

“It is easier for Whitman to stay open because they’ve cleaned up everything around campus but then when you’re dealing with the larger surrounding area with more roads and more paths, the public schools have to close more often,” Persico said.

According to Supervisor Bell, driving slowly will benefit those who decide to drive on public roads. It is harder for bigger roads to be cleared than the compact spaces found at Whitman, so it is important to drive safe.

“Make sure you have a good shovel or snow blower to keep your sidewalk clear for pedestrians. When traveling, give yourself more time to reach your destination, drive slow and keep plenty of distance between yourself and other drivers,” Persico said.

This year, the snow has been later and heavier. These unusual circumstances create more inconveniences for the community.  

“Most years the snowfall is spread out over the season. This year we have received most of the snowfall in a short period of time without melting off. It is also later in the season than most years. We usually receive our snow in January and early February,” Bell said.

Mayor Clark is aware of the problems the snow causes, and is working to make it easier on Walla Walla residents.

“The city plans and prepares for delivering essential services in all kinds of weather and situations.  We’re also recognizing that the city has a role in facilitating neighborhood and block organizations that make it easier for neighbors to help each other during difficult weather and in emergencies,” Mayor Clark said.

On Whitman’s campus, the grounds crew works hard to keep our sidewalks in good shape for students walking to class. According to Persico, the surfaces surrounding campus buildings are in good shape.

“I think in terms of snow removal Whitman has handled it really well. I think this year in terms of their delays they’ve been really clear about when they are going to do it. Whitman has done a better job this year with communicating the delays, it’s just unfortunate when the schedules don’t line up with the public schools, but I understand that they’re managing different concerns,” Persico said.

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