Technology Makes Inroads into Snow and Ice Control

More than 700 snowfithers gather in Kansas City, Mo., for 37th Annual North American Snow Conference.

Article December 28, 2000
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Although the 37th Annual North American Snow Conference took place in Kansas City, Mo., a city known more for its moderate rather than severe winter weather, the event drew snowfighters from far and wide, from throughout the U.S., as well as Canada, Sweden, and Japan. More than 700 attendees gathered in the City of Fountains to exchange information about snow and ice control, a field which is becoming increasingly high-tech.

A great deal has changed in the industry since the first informal snow conference was held by a group of snowfighters following a New York City snow storm in the early 1960s.

ÒSnow removal is rapidly moving away from an art form to an engineered science,Ó said Larry Frevert, committee chairman for the conference, in his remarks during the opening general session. ÒWe are moving away from the snow removal of our fathers to anti-icing and roadway weather information systems.Ó

He added that technologies such as these are becoming more and more necessary as government agencies and their employees are being asked to do more with less funding.

The field is using technology to help snowfighters better plan their snowfighting strategies to combat winter storms. While roadway weather information systems (RWIS), as well as other weather-condition detection devices and services, are making inroads into the field, Mother Nature continues to be a lady whose actions are difficult to consistently predict.

This fact was emphasized in the keynote presentation by Bryan T. Busby, a meteorologist and local T.V. weatherman. Among his comments, Busby iterated that when conditions are right 1 in. of rain can become 1 ft of snow. Thus, if weather information is misinterpreted only slightly, a large discrepancy can result between the forecast and the actual outcome of the weather.

In addition, Busby, who has developed his own weather condition collection system through his Kansas City-based Weather Computation Systems, said despite all the new technology being implemented in weather collection on the ground, atmospheric information from which weather forecasters produce weather models is spread thin. A great deal of the weather information for the U.S. is collected using weather balloons that are released from a relatively few number of points across the country, leaving wide-open areas for which predictions have to be made.

Roundtable discussion groups that were offered at the 1996 snow conference were held again this year and well attended. Groups focused on topics such as anti-icing and anti-icing equipment and snow and ice control in states that experience few winter storms. This year, minutes were taken at each table and made available to attendees for their convenience.

According to Frevert, technological advances on the chemical front also was a highlight of the conference. ÒWe are learning more about different chemicals and how to apply them,Ó he said. A panel discussion on anti-icing chemicals was well received and created a spirited exchange of philosophies and ideas from panel members and audience alike. The panel consisted of representatives of anti-icing chemicals, including salt, calcium chloride, calcium magnesium acetate and magnesium chloride.

According to Frevert, the conference boiled down to one idea, which was represented in a presentation on knowing the wants of your customer. ÒWe need to perform snow removal to satisfy our customers.Ó

The 38th Annual North American Snow Conference will take place April 19-23, 1998 in Edmonton, Canada. For more information, contact the American Public Works Association, 106 West 11th St., Suite 1800, Kansas City, MO 64105-1806, or call (816) 472-6100, fax (816) 472-1610.

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