It’s spring, but snow removal experts are brainstorming

David Runk
Associated Press

Hundreds of people who work to keep roadways, sidewalks and runways clear of snow and ice across the U.S. and Canada will have cold weather on their minds this weekend.

They’re gathering in Grand Rapids for the nonprofit American Public Works Association’s 2015 North American Snow Conference, a four-day event that starts Sunday.

Participants in “The Show for Snow” will share their experiences and learn about the latest in snow-removal technology, said Tom Trice, public works director for Bloomfield Township.

“You’ve got to try to move snow as quickly as you can,” said Trice, a past president of the American Public Works Association. “You can’t move it fast enough to get people back on the road.”

Also planned are tours of the City of Kentwood Public Works Facility and the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.

Tom Ecklund, facilities management director at the airport, said they’ll talk about how the airport works to quickly clear runways and efforts to cut down on the environmental impact of de-icing chemicals.

Clearing snow at the airport is a balancing act where timing and speed are key, because closing a runway for plowing can ground planes bound from relatively close airports, such as those in Detroit or Chicago. Ecklund said crews try to get a runway back open in 20 to 25 minutes.

Tours are scheduled for Wednesday. An addition sharing the airport’s expertise, Ecklund said the chance to hear from others in different parts of the country about how they handle the snow is a key part of the event.

“It’s really an opportunity for us to pick the brains of those other professionals that are coming,” he said. “We’re always looking for ways to do our jobs better.”