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A major area of concern for the snow and ice industry is always revolving around the environmental effects of de-icing materials. Over the years we have seen transitions from traditional sand and salt to even more advanced chemicals that are used to melt snow and ice. There is no question that when practiced poorly, the use of de-icing material can have a detrimental effect to the environment, from causing erosion to poisoning waterways. However, we are at a stage where our society has acknowledged these issues and has made strides to protect the environment while keeping roads safe during the winter. In a report featured by the Salt Institute, studies show best practices in deicing can result in drastic environmental improvement. A University of Waterloo report shows that adopting new innovative practices for winter de-icing can result in noticeable reductions of sodium chloride in the environment. These practices include creating plans and administering proper training, and also establishing codes within cities and towns. In one scenario, a 25% reduction of total road salt application resulted in 50% lower sodium chloride levels in shallow groundwater. Why is this significant? Well, shallow groundwater affects soil quality that determines whether or not certain plants will thrive. If unhealthy levels of chemicals and minerals are present in the water, then entire ecosystems such as wetlands can suffer devastating effects. Plants don’t grow and animals are left with nothing. Not good.
The University of Waterloo report also uncovered some interesting facts about applying sand on roads. In recent years, more and more information has been surfacing about the negative effects of sand. Roads are constantly being eroded by weather and use, but sand is also a major culprit. The grit not only destroys pavement, but it also hinders draining. Porous asphalt is becoming popular around the country to improve safety efforts during storms. Normally, water would collect on roadways and cause splashing or slippery surfaces. However, with porous asphalt water won’t collect, it will simply drain into the road and be redirected under the surface. The problem with sand however, is that it clogs the pores and doesn’t allow the asphalt to drain water effectively. When draining is not properly handled, there’s no telling where the deicing material used will end up. It won’t just sit on the road forever, and it is likely that salt, sand, and other chemicals will spread into storm drains and other waterways.
Preventing the deterioration of American ecosystems starts with action from all industries. Any amount of planning and training for de-icing practices is a step in the right direction. Using innovative technology and high quality equipment is a sure way to accurately monitor the distribution of salt and other materials on roadways. Interested in learning more about deicing best practices? We can help.
Credit: Salt Institute, University of Waterloo, National Water Research Institute
At Case we always look towards what’s new in snow and ice. We believe innovation is key and we’re willing to share any great ideas that catch our eye. That’s why we want to spread information about HeatTrak. HeatTrak is a company that has been around only since 2004 and has been revolutionizing the way we view winter slip prevention. HeatTrak produces heated mats with sizes ranging from residential to small business and even to industrial. These portable heated mats are so appealing because not only is it easy and low maintenance, but it means shoveling and salting isn’t a must after every storm. There’s no doubt that having to shovel and salt is an inconvenience, so anything to make the process simpler is sure to get positive feedback. During a storm it’s sometimes necessary to clear snow and ice over and over again which can take up time that not everyone can afford to spare. Of course, these mats are meant for walking surfaces and wouldn’t be placed over an entire driveway, but using HeatTrak even minimally will reduce the rate at which salt is tracked into buildings. It’s incredibly common for houses and businesses to be cluttered with salty, sandy residue once the snow starts to fall, but giving people a clean surface to walk on before entering definitely helps combat the gritty mess. HeatTrak‘s mats are also durable, meaning that this won’t be a gimmick that you’ll have to purchase year after year. Their products are built to endure harsh conditions, and that’s just what they’ll do. Another great benefit for businesses is that the use of heated mats to prevent slipping can reduce insurance premiums, as stated in a customer testimonial.
The major reason why HeatTrak‘s mats can change the way we see snow removal is because it eliminates the need for salt and other materials to melt snow and ice. There are always concerns when spreading materials because they are bound to get into the natural environment. Salt and sand has been known cause negative environmental effects, whether it be causing erosion or harming plant-life. Other chemicals are sometimes often used which can be even more dangerous. Some ice melting “home remedies” suggest using bleach or antifreeze, but these are incredibly dangerous chemicals which spread into plants and can even get into water sources. While right now it seems like there is no perfect method for clearing snow, one that eliminates the need to use potentially harmful materials seems like a step in the right direction.
The United States isn’t the only country that runs into trouble with snow during the wintertime. Much of Europe and Canada run into similar situations, but the United States seems to be a mid-point between countries with huge snowfall totals such as Norway and others with much less such as the United Kingdom. One country that stands apart from the rest in terms of handling snow is Sweden. Because snow and cold weather is so common in northern Europe, Sweden has adapted much of its society to always being ready for snow. Swedish lifestyle is tailored towards the frequent cold weather, where most shoes are equipped with proper soles and clothes are made for conditions well below freezing. Salting roads is a legal requirement and special snow tires are always put on for better traction. Chains and studs are also commonly equipped onto tires to improve traction in the snowier areas where plowing and salting just aren’t enough to keep roads completely cleared. Even for airports warm sand is often spread across runaways to keep snow melted and to give aircraft traction when landing and taking off.
One aspect of life that keeps Sweden ahead during the winter is how they treat cold weather and snow as if it were just another day, since it is so common. School isn’t cancelled because of negative temperatures and people will still be seen outside. The real difference is their preparedness. Going out in extremely cold temperatures isn’t too much of a problem when everyone in Sweden has the proper clothing attire to keep them warm and safe. Of course though, when temperatures drop dangerously low more precautions are taken, and not everyone chooses to venture outdoors. Wind causes massive snow drifts and can easily cause frostbite. The preferred method of transportation in northern areas of Sweden and Norway and even Canada is usually by snowmobile. Snow sometimes gets so difficult to manage that roads become useless and there is no way to pass through. So instead of trying to get through the snow in a car or truck, many citizens choose to go right on top of it all with a snowmobile.
Middle to southern Europe views snow in a way that is similar to many Americans. Snow can be an uncommon occurrence and the level of preparedness is nothing compared to Sweden or Norway. A large area of Europe rarely sees long periods of freezing temperatures and so the expectation of snow isn’t usually fresh in everyone’s mind. But that’s not to say it never snows. Salting and plowing are still the preferred method of clearing snow, but many places don’t always have a fleet ready to take to the streets and clear away frozen debris. It’s all about being prepared, which is why sometimes we see schools may close for only a few inches of snow in European countries but also some middle states in America. Warmer states are often unprepared for snow and even a small amount can be crippling, whereas in Sweden or even New England a few inches is treated as just another day. In the coming months those few inches of snow that may be on the ground won’t be looking so bad just knowing how many feet of snow are already probably covering the ground in Sweden, Norway, or our neighbor Canada.
After the unforgiving snowfall of last winter season, it seems like the only thing on everyone’s mind is what we can expect this year. Our sources at Weatherworks, Inc. provided us with a month by month forecast of temperatures and snowfall, and we want to share this information so everyone can be prepared.
The end of October is here and don’t worry, November won’t be anything out of the ordinary. For most of New England we can expect slightly warmer temperatures and relatively average snowfall totals. Granted it is still early in the season and there’s a chance it doesn’t even snow at all, but if it does then it’s likely to be only a few inches at most. The most noticeable weather difference will be found close to the Canadian border and towards the midwest, where they expect much warmer temperatures and below average snowfall.
December is the official start of the winter season, but it may still feel like autumn even after the leaves fall and pumpkins disappear. December is predicted to be extremely mild compared to past averages. We can expect up to a 40% increase in temperature and snowfall averages. The warmer weather is caused by zonal flow from the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean which travels east to the Atlantic. This effect is similar to how a jet stream can influence weather. While the cold holding off for a while longer seems great there will still be precipitation. Warm weather prevents snow of course, but there will still be rain and possibly mixed precipitation. If temperatures end up being just right we could be in for a winter of slush.
The forecast for January seems surprisingly tame compared to last season. Above average temperatures and below average snowfall totals continue from December. This doesn’t mean it won’t snow, it just means it will be less eventful than past years. This warmth won’t hold out forever though, as month by month we see slow changes from warm with below average snowfall, transitioning towards a typical cold and snowy winter. The end of January is likely to ramp up and prepare us for February, which could be another month to remember when it comes to snow.
February is the month that exceeded our expectations last season, and it’s shaping up to do so again. Don’t be fooled by the warm weather of the early winter, because February looks to be creating a perfect storm. Colder, below average temperatures move into the northeast by this time and snowfall totals increase, significantly. Not only do cold temperatures make all that rain and slush turn to snow, but there’s also likely to be more water coming our way in general. There is projected to be an active southern jet stream, which could bring the wet southern conditions up north. One big rainstorm in Florida could mean an even bigger blizzard for the northeast. Keep in mind this is only a forecast and nothing is set in stone but February weather is shaping up to be the greatest challenge of the winter.
Sharp temperature changes in March to April look to close the winter season. Once the warm air sets in the threat of a snowstorm is no longer something to stress over. We may still see mixed conditions, but by this time any leftover snow will begin to melt. The southern Atlantic coast will likely see colder than average temperatures, but it shouldn’t be enough to see a snow storm.
Hopefully the forecast helps everyone prepare better for what’s to come. It may seem nice for December and January to stay warm and possibly blizzard free, but remember February will be quickly on its way. Overall the season looks to begin late and end quickly, but then again it’s the northeast and it’s still fresh in our minds that during the winter anything can happen.
It seems that these days most people understand the troubles that come with snow. But have you ever considered how it was done before we had hundreds of trucks and fancy plows? Imagine tackling this past winter only using shovels and horse-drawn equipment. It might make you appreciate just how far we’ve come with snow removal.
So where do you even begin without the snow plows of today? Well just like how a horse would have been used on a farm, they had to drag plowing equipment. Needless to say this was incredibly tedious because the horses couldn’t push the snow, but rather they would walk over the snow and pull the plow. It was less of a way to push the snow to one area and more of a way to scoop up the snow so that it could be dumped somewhere else. Think of it as a giant horse-drawn shovel, and once the horse has gathered up enough snow, they would haul it away to another location, much like what is done now just on an entirely different scale. Using a horse drawn plow proved to be an effective method of snow removal, but it never worked on its own.
For those who think shoveling a driveway is difficult work imagine trying to shovel a whole street. This is exactly what was done in most cases. Hundreds of men would take to the streets during after a winter storm and shovel snow into carriages which could later be hauled away by horses (as shown above). It would take days to clear snow from a single storm and because it was so difficult to quickly and effectively clear snow, deaths were not uncommon in these situations.
During the late 19th century railroads were booming and provided the best transportation around the United States. Initially trains encountered issues with snow and ice on the tracks, but most trains were fitted with plows on the front which usually worked great. However, there were always situations where snow drifts would get to heights of ten to twenty feet or even more at which point the trains would become stuck and would have to be shoveled out. The real issues arose when smaller trains used in cities for public transportation became stuck in the snow. These small engines weren’t as powerful as the ones going across the country, and weren’t very effective at clearly their own paths. Cities were forced to take matters into their own hands and create a system that would avoid the snow altogether, which we now know to be the subway. Logistically it makes sense for public transportation to be underground for the sake of saving space but arguably the biggest influence on the introduction of subways was frozen winter weather. Underground railways had been considered for a while, but after the blizzard of 1888 where hundreds of lives were lost due to a lack of reliable transportation, decisions were finally made to take action. In 1899 Boston became the first city to install underground subway tracks which paved the way for many other cities to follow.
As the automobile emerged snow removal became increasingly easier and more effective. Plows could be attached to vehicles and snow could be removed similar to how we do it today. Conveyor belts attached to plows were used to fill dump trucks which could haul away snow. This method has evolved into using loaders and heavy machinery which can quickly fill trucks to remove snow. Once machines were introduced into snow removal the entire process made incredible strides with snow storms becoming less of a burden on society.
However there is one aspect of snow removal that is often forgotten and can make the greatest difference. Weather forecasting. Only recently has weather forecasting been so accurate so that preparation can take place for storms. This is one reason why we are so effective today. Not only is our equipment significantly better than what it used to be, but we can also prepare. Imagine having no idea snow was coming and trying to take immediate action to clear it. Now imagine trying to do it with only shovels and horse drawn equipment. Not an easy task to say the least.
So appreciate the snow removal efforts we have in the 21st century, because there was a time not too long ago where people didn’t have it so easy. Snow will always be a hassle, it seems like no matter what we try to do winter always gets the best of us. But who knows, maybe in the generations to come some other method will be discovered that will end all our frustrations with the snow. For now though, get your snowblowers ready and stock up on rock salt. Winter is coming.
Credit: JohnstownHistory.blogspot, Jalopnik.com
When it comes to clearing snow and ice there are endless methods to get the job done. However, there are always the strategies and tactics that are just plain wrong. Here is some of the worst advice we’ve heard about snow and ice. If you find yourself doing some of these things there’s no need to worry, Case can show you the right way.
You need to put sand on your driveway or else it will be slippery! Well, there’s a messy truth about sand. Whenever a blizzard warning flashes across the news, people flock to stores to stock up on food, water, and unfortunately, sand. Let’s make this clear right away; sand does NOT melt snow or ice. Yes, that’s correct. For years the use of sand has been incredibly wasteful and inefficient when attempting to prevent freezing on roads, driveways, and parking lots. It’s not always good for traction either. In many cases using sand only makes matters worse because it creates a thick frozen mess of sand, snow, and ice, as well as anything else that may have got caught up with it. In addition to sand be ineffective at clearing away ice, it creates a major hassle at the end of the season. Sand doesn’t melt or just wash away, so when the temperature rises you’re left with sand scattered everywhere. It gets into plants, grass, and drains which require even more attention than you probably thought. Not to mention it probably just eroded most of the top layer of any pavement it was applied to.
The easiest way to get rid of all that snow and ice is to just push it into a drain. Sorry, but this piece of advice is sure to cause some serious negative effects. Drains are for water, they aren’t made to allow thick snow and ice (and sand) through. When you push debris into a drain it greatly increases the chances that it will clog. A drain that doesn’t function may seem like something you could shrug off, but if blocked off for too long you might have water runoff in places you wouldn’t like. Snow and ice is bound to melt eventually, and while that clogged drain may not seem like a problem now, when early Spring rolls around you might think otherwise. Snow and ice can create an unbearably large amount of water and when it can’t drain it will either make gardens and lawns into a soppy muddy mess, or will find its way to the lowest point around (probably your basement). Please, please, please do not block drains or you’ll find yourself regretting it later.
You need to keep your roof cleared of snow and ice at all times. This piece of advice can get a bit tricky, and while it may seem correct this is often a risky endeavor during the winter months. Cleaning off a roof just once can be dangerous for the obvious reason that walking on a slippery elevated surface can easily lead to a serious injury. Clearing a roof possibly a dozen times over the course of one season greatly increases the risk of something going wrong, not to mention most of the time it isn’t completely necessary. A general rule to follow is that a roof should be cleared when snow reaches above a thickness of 6 inches. The real reason why keeping a roof constantly cleared is poor advice is because it can damage your shingles. If you are going to shovel your roof, be sure to take care and use a shovel with a plastic edge rather than metal to minimize potential damage. Each time a roof is shoveled the tiny granules on the shingles are scraped off, and compromise their effectiveness. Over-shoveling a roof year after year is likely to reduce the lifespan of the roof and replacement costs thousands of dollars. Don’t stress too much, unless the snow gets out of hand there is no reason to continuously clear your roof.
Hopefully you can avoid making these mistakes this upcoming winter and for anyone who tries to advise you to use sand, push snow into a drain, or keep clearing your roof you’ll be able to educate them on the right way to do it.
Our experts down at WeatherWorks Inc. have recently issued their 2015-2016 Winter Forecast Preview! After the past years’ record setting snowfall, the question arises of “How much snow are we going to get?” These eight words are destined to haunt anyone even remotely near Boston. According to the preview however, it’s time to take a deep breath. WeatherWorks’ forecast predicts a strong El Niño which correlates to below average snowfall (El Niño events are normally categorized by warmer sea surface temperatures).
But we aren’t completely safe from the storm’s fury this winter. As any true Northeasterner might know, the weather can be unpredictable, and if everything goes right there’s no reason why we can’t see another record setting blizzard, it’s just less likely. While snowfall predictions are down mixed conditions are likely to increase. In other words you probably won’t see a snow bank towering over you, but you’re going to have to deal with slush and sleet. Mixed precipitation proposes hazards that may not be considered, and it’s important to be prepared. Slush and wet snow that builds up produces issues with draining, which in turn leads to flooding. Make sure all storm drains as well as run off areas are cleared so water can drain properly. This applies to all buildings, especially homes which may not have such sophisticated systems for removing water. The last thing anyone wants to wake up to is a swimming pool in their basement. So be prepared this winter, it’s not too early to repair that old snowblower or if needed make sure you have an intact shovel. The best we can do is expect the worst and prepare for another year of brutal whiteout conditions, but let’s hope that’s not the case.
The expectation of summertime is for the weather to be hot and sunny every day. Right? Maybe not if you live in South America. Parts of the southern hemisphere are experiencing frigid winter temperatures and even snow! That’s because the Earth’s axis is tilted in such a way that makes the seasons in the northern hemisphere to be opposite of those in the southern hemisphere. Imagine snow in August. Well that’s just what people in Puerto Santa Rosa, Chile experienced last week. Weather.com precipitation reports indicated up to 8 inches of snow in some parts! And this isn’t the only place getting snow. Areas all around southern Chile and Argentina have been experiencing freezing temperatures and snowfall since June.
But isn’t the south supposed to be warm? Not always! The southern tip of South America reaches down towards Antarctica and the South Pole, similar to how to coldest point to the United States is the North Pole. While most of Chile receives minimal snowfall, you’d be wrong to think there aren’t areas that could compete with Boston’s recent snowfall record. Portillo Snow Resort of Chile reports that they receive a whopping 25 feet of snowfall annually. That’s correct, not 25 inches but 25 feet. So be thankful your August has been hot and sunny, because you could be living in Chile where there is a thick blanket of snow. Enjoy the summer while it lasts, winter will be here before you know it. Keep up with our blog for more interesting stories about snow, weather, and winter related events.