Advancing on winter

High technology is plowing its way into the snow and ice control arena and will be the focus of the 1999 North American Snow Conference

Bill Wilson / December 28, 2000

It’s not often people like to hear about a mixture of ice and snow. But at the 1999 North American Snow Conference (NASC), sponsored by the American Public Works Association (APWA) and held in Duluth, Minn., is an exception.

The four-day event, which begins April 18, will cover everything from the latest in snow removal technology to how to deal with personality clashes in the workplace. The NASC will feature 30 professional development and technical sessions and roundtables, as well as representatives from over 80 exhibiting companies.

Sunday, April 18

The conference will officially kick-off with with a reception on April 18 from 5 to 7 p.m., but before mingling, participants can take advantage of a couple of technical tours in the afternoon. Perhaps the most eye-catching of the two is the visit to the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (MnDot) snow fighting maintenance facilities for municipal and state transportation agencies from 1 to 4 p.m. The tour includes a close-up look at MnDOT’s advanced winter maintenance truck and road weather information system communications center. A trip through the Lake Superior North Shores tunnels also will be offered.

Monday, April 19

The conference will get down to business during the opening general session on Monday, from 8:30 to 10 a.m., with a talk covering the benefits of gathering weather information over the Internet.

After a short break, the NASC kicks into full gear with four concurrent sessions from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. Headlining the group will be a presentation of the wing plow. Information on how wing plows could eliminate backing up in dangerous intersections and abolish the practice of tandem plowing will be offered, as well as advantages and disadvantages of using the equipment.

Virginia and New York also will receive some attention during the late morning hours. In December 1996, Virginia was awarded a comprehensive maintenance contract, the first of its kind, and in 1998, New York battled one of the worst ice storms in recent memory.

Liquid chemical deicers should prevent the first day of talk from fizzling out in the afternoon sessions, from 1:15 to 2 p.m. The panel discussion will focus on the role of liquid deicers for street and highway snow fighting. It also will provide an education of the effectiveness of magnesium chloride, calcium chloride and other alternatives in deicing and anti-icing.

Other topics will deal with conflicts in the workplace, handling the media and road maintenance outsourcing.

The second round of afternoon talks from 3 to 4:30 p.m. will deal with the following: environmental effects due to chemical usage, equipment versatility, innovations in snow and ice removal, outsourcing selected operations, snow route assignments, snow and ice policies, spreading and plowing procedures, winter materials, winter maintenance techniques and the new millenium’s impact on snow equipment and snow removal.

Tuesday, April 20

How in the world do you teach buffalo to fly like geese? The answer will be given during a talk about the different styles of leadership during the opening session on Tuesday from 9 to 10:15 a.m.

Salt Solutions could be a strong source of knowledge during the four presentations running simultaneously from 10:45 a.m. to 12 p.m. Filling the rest of the slate will be discussions on good press and public support, the economic costs of poor winter maintenance and workplace performance.

When the conference resumes from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m., participants will be able to hear an update on the activities and accomplishments of the Snow and Ice Cooperative Fund (SICOP). SICOP is a cooperative effort involving APWA, the National Association of County Engineers, the Federal Highway Administration and the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials. Other areas of emphasis will be anti-icing and Roadway Weather Information Systems (RWIS) training, automatic vehicle location systems, winter maintenance and performance measurements.

Additional sessions will cover dealing with customer service, the utilization of market research and employee involvement to manage snow and ice and weather services.

The day promises to be more entertaining as it goes along. The APWA’s involvement with new winter maintenance technologies will highlight the final round of talks from 3 to 4:15 p.m. on Tuesday. This session will go over some of the breakthroughs and overseas experiences touring foreign winter maintenance facilities.

The final leg also will cover advances in RWIS technology, avoiding career burnout and managing winter using a modern maintenance management system, and capping it all off will be a snow celebration banquet which will feature a variety of sketches, songs and comedy acts.

Wednesday, April 21

Keeping the NASC up to speed on the final day will be a presentation on zero-velocity spreaders.

Information on stress management, snow and ice control in the rural environment and thermal mapping and road RWIS also will be presented during the 9 to 10:15 a.m. time slot.

Closing the conference on a high note will be a talk on bright alternatives to negative solutions.

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