PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Buffalo, New York, is buried under feet of snow, and more was in the forecast for Thursday.
As the storm continues, and residents start to dig out, the question becomes, what to do with all that snow? With drifts already topping 12 feet, emergency crews are struggling to find a place to put it. With winter quickly approaching, there’s no guarantee it will melt anytime soon.
Enter a Pittsburgh-based company, Snow and Ice Management. The company’s headquarters is on the North Side and they left Thursday afternoon for Buffalo.
The company owns a machine that they call they call the Snow Dragon. It scoops up the snow using a front-loader, empties it into a trailer and then melts it, turning it into hot water. That hot water is then used to melt more snow nearby. The water is filtered before it is released.
“We can go anywhere and melt snow. The only thing we need is a supply of diesel,” Snow and Ice Management Company President Chuck Lantzman said.
Similar equipment is used in big cities where open space is at a premium, like New York City. There, the snow melting machines melt the snow after a storm and dump it into street drains.
Snow and Ice Management is a North Side company whose primary job is providing tons of rock salt and calcium to commercial retailers.
Once they arrive, employees will first head to the Buffalo Bills’ stadium, Ralph Wilson Stadium. They’ll be working long hours, trying to melt the snow. But the Bills have been forced to move Sunday’s scheduled home game to another location.
“They’re going to start cleaning all the bleachers, down onto the stadium. Then they want to start opening up the field, and then I would assume they’re going to take us out to the parking lot. If they get the field and bleachers open, then they need parking,” Lantzman said.
The owner says 1,500 gallons of water are piped through the system.
“Down below is a burner heating the water to 140 degrees,” he said.
The burner can melt more than 20 dump truck loads of snow per hour.
“It’s filtered, and it’s safe water going back down in the storm system,” says the owner.
Then, they’ll move on to a grocery store chain, Wegman’s Supermarkets. With so many people running out of food, grocery stores and convenience stores are expected to be overrun once the roads are clear people can get out of their neighborhoods.
But, there aren’t many of these snow-melting machines around – only a handful in the United States. In fact, Snow and Ice Management own the only one in several nearby states.
PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission are also pitching in to help road crews in upstate New York.
As of Thursday morning, workers were already clearing parts of the New York State Thruway, otherwise known as Interstate 90.
PennDOT officials say, they are happy to help during such a trying time. The crews are expected to return home to the Pennsylvania on Nov. 24.
At least eight deaths are being blamed on the storm. Emergency crews found one of the victims trapped in his car under more than 10 feet of snow.
Interstates are closed, and many people are trapped inside their homes. Roofs are even collapsing under the weight of the snow. Others say their front doors and windows have cracked and blown out because the pressure from the snow is so great.
“Some of it came down from the roof,” says Chrissy Hazard, a resident who is trapped inside her home. “When it did, it just blew the doors right in across my living room.”
One official explained just how heavy the snow is.
“There’s an equivalent of about 6 to 8 inches of water. If someone did the math, you could figure out how much weight is on top of these structures,” Erie Co. Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Scott Petronic said.
Others had to climb through their windows just to get outside to start shoveling.
“We had to get a ladder to crawl out the top window for me to shovel the front door, and it’s still coming down,” says Carrie Ann Herrera. “And [my car is] buried under probably three or four feet or five feet of snow.”
Some residents say they are running out of supplies. When asked if he had enough food to ride out the storm, one resident said, “We had enough to last us a day or so. I think they originally called for 7 to 9 inches, but it has definitely been exceeded by a couple feet.”
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