Baltimore unveils new weapon against leftover snow

Machine from Ontario can melt up to 10 truck loads of snow an hour

  • Workers test a Canadian snow melter in the parking lot of Polytechnic Institute on Monday. The city is paying $300 an hour for the use of the melter and a licensed worker and will use it "as long as necessary," said Scott Brillman, deputy director of the city's emergency management office.
Workers test a Canadian snow melter in the parking lot of Polytechnic… (Baltimore Sun photo by Amy…)
February 15, 2010|By Julie Scharper | julie.scharper@baltsun.com | Baltimore Sun reporter

Baltimore has brought in a tough new weapon in the battle against the towering mounds of gray snow lining city streets — a Canadian snow melter.

The device, which looks like a Dumpster with a panel of knobs and gauges, can melt up to 10 truck loads of snow an hour, said Scott Brillman, deputy director of the city's emergency management office.

The melter was chewing through snow in the parking of Polytechnic Institute this morning, but is slated to travel to neighborhoods, including Poplar Hills, Federal Hill and the Harford Road corridor, to tackle drifts there, said Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake.

"Our main concern at this point is traffic," said Rawlings-Blake. "We've got large piles that are blocking views and essentially causing blind turns. This is powerful but small, and can really get into neighborhoods."

Workers are also focusing on clearing secondary roads and school parking lots today, said Rawlings-Blake, who was confident that schools would open Tuesday.

The snow predicted for this evening and tomorrow morning will be "a walk in the park," compared to last week's back-to-back heavy snows, Rawlings-Blake said.

The melter will help with one of the most pressing problems posed by those storms: Where to put all that snow. Workers have been placing it on fields at Pimlico Race Track and dumping it in the Inner Harbor. Since the melter can be easily transported, it cuts down on the distance that trucks hauling snow must travel, officials said.

It is the first time the city has used a snow melter, although they are commonly used in snowier climates. Baltimore is paying $300 an hour for the use of the melter and a licensed worker and will use it "as long as necessary," Brillman said.

The melter uses heated coils to melt the snow, which runs out as streams of water from the bottom of the device into a storm drain. No chemicals are added to the snow and filters strain out larger particles, Brillman said.

Bill Hamilton, the owner of Turf Plus, a snow-removal company from Ontario, said he contacted city authorities after hearing about the record snowfall.

He was looking for a chance to use his melter, since there has been only about 10 inches of snow in Ontario this season, he said.

When he left Ontario yesterday morning, it was a few degrees warmer than it is in Baltimore and there was no snow on the ground, he said. Surveying the piles in the high school parking lot, he said: "This is a big snow. We don't get this very often."

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