Just got off the phone with my buddy Rick Decker at Minneapolis St Paul International Airport. I called to get an update on the snow situation in the twin cities. They are expecting half an inch between now and rush hour, and another couple of inches overnight.;
Rick tells me that both the airport and the cities are handling the fifth heaviest snowstorm on record very well. The local department of transportation is geared up for heavy snow and prepares in advance with salt covering and then later with excellent plowing.
The parking operation at the airport closes the top floors of the decks when then know a storm is coming and thus is able to plow them easily after the storm. They push the snow into melters which turn the snow to water and then sends it off to the sewers. The pipes are insulated to keep them from freezing. Thus they don’t have much build up even with snow falling at a rate of 36 inches in a 24 hour period. They hire contractors to help when snow is heavy – they have to keep the helixes open and the exit areas clear. That way they don’t pull resources from the airside operations, who are committed to keeping planes coming and going.
The air side operations are opened but slow, of course. They keep one of the four runways open, and land as many planes a possible during the storm. The ground crews test the runway for is traction and then notify pilots so they can land appropriately.
Snow is a big deal in these areas. Buffalo puts on seminars (probably in the summer) on how to deal with snow issues. There are bits of magic including the ratio of salt to snow which make a huge difference when fighting with Mother Nature.
Rick moved to Minneapolis from Washington state and was preparing to put his snow tires on the first winter after he arrived. He was told that was unnecessary. “Are these people nuts?” was his comment. He found, however, that the snow removal was so good that chains or snow tires were unnecessary. When you have a lot of snow, you learn how to deal with it. When you have a little snow, like in Seattle, you simply put up with it.