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Correction Appended.

Winter gave Providence a warm welcome this year, with an average winter temperature in the high 40s and only 17.8 inches of snow, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. Due to the lack of snowfall, the Department of Facilities Management only spent $112,000 of its allotted snow removal budget of $196,000, according to Stephen Maiorisi, vice president of facilities management.  

This winter was the second-warmest in Providence since record-keeping began over 100 years ago, according to NOAA. This stands in stark contrast to last year's mid-30s average winter temperature and approximately 46 inches of snowfall. It was also the fourth-warmest meteorological winter on record for the United States, according to NOAA.

The cause of this abnormally warm winter was the jet stream, which is the boundary that separates colder Canadian air from milder air, said Charles Tolley,  a meteorologist for NOAA. This stopped the outbreak of cold Canadian air from entering southern New England and has resulted in above-average temperatures for the last 10 months. Tolley called this "unusual but not unique," adding that "we have had mild, fairly snow-free winters in the past." 

Maiorisi said the savings will not have that much of an impact. "Snow removal is only 0.3 percent of our overall budget, which is an extremely small part," he said.

Maiorisi added that Facilities already spent a significant amount of resources in the fall on Hurricane Irene, which had not been accounted for in the budget. A total of $90,000 was spent on the trimming of trees, cleaning of drains and post-hurricane cleanup activities. 

Despite minimal snowfall, Providence still experienced freezing temperatures this winter, and Facilities had to allocate resources for de-icing and salting pavements. But a snow-less winter has its advantages. With more time available, Facilities is able to reallocate resources to other projects that are normally overlooked, Maiorisi said. The landscaping crew has the opportunity to care for trees that it did not have time for in the past, and several areas of campus are undergoing maintenance. Work on spring maintenance has also begun to get "a jump-start on preparations for Commencement by planting new flowers and moving leaves," Maiorisi said.

In past years, Facilities has spent significantly more on snow removal. It spent $246,000 in 2011, $189,000 in 2010 and $203,000 in 2009 due to greater amounts of snow. "It's not so much about how many inches of snow as it is about how many snowfalls there are," Maiorisi said. "Because a greater number of snowfalls means more time and money, one can't correlate inches to costs."

A bigger issue that Facilities faces is utility costs. "This winter, we used 10 percent less energy on heating and saved about $200,000 but because of a warmer summer, our cost of cooling went up by 10 percent," Maiorisi said. Any money saved is redirected toward energy conservation projects, which include the construction of solar cells on the new fitness center pool and the installation of energy efficient lighting on every building on campus.

Students are certainly not complaining about the warm winter. They have been spilling out onto the Main Green, soaking in the sunlight in shorts, slippers and aviators. 

"I'm a big fan of this warm winter," said Tellef Lundevall '13. "I was here over winter and it made it easier to go outside. I've been taking advantage of it by hanging outside with my friends a lot. It hasn't been as miserable walking to class." 

 "I've noticed a lot more smiling and a lot of different people interacting on the green," said Ross Walthall '13. "I've been talking to people I never really talked to and playing soccer, which I never really played before."

But the unusually high temperatures have disconcerted the more environmentally-conscious students. "It's so nice, but it makes me worried about climate change," said Anna Poon '15. "It makes me think the world is going to end soon because Providence is supposed to be cold." 

Alyssa Browning '15, who hails from Pawtucket, called this winter "a drastic contrast compared to last year's," when her hometown's schools saw roofs collapse under the weight of the snow. She added, "While I'm enjoying the early spring, I still miss the snow."

 

An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed a series of quotes on the Department of Facilities Management's snow removal budget to Carlos Fernandez, assistant vice president of facilities, operations and engineering. In fact, those quotes should have been attributed to Stephen Maiorisi, vice president of facilities management. The article also quoted Fernandez as saying that Facilities saved $20,000 on heating this winter. In fact, Facilities saved $200,000 on heating. The article also stated that in 2010, Facilities spent $289,000 on snow removal. In fact, it spent $189,000 in that year. The Herald regrets the errors.




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