The first thing on your mind when you wake on a blustery, freezing New York winter is usually ‘This is just too cold!” You step to the window. Hesitatingly, you pull the blinds, preparing your eyes for the blinding glow of the snowfall that must have accumulated over the time you slept. But wait. There is no snow. But how?
While the individual might be used to shoveling snow by hand, especially in a neighborhood or a city without regular heavy snowfall, in many high-elevation areas, as well as areas with significant snowfall, companies with tailored equipment for snow removal offer their services to rid you of that pesky white stuff. There are several different ways a company will make an offer; either by contracting with the city proper for the duration of the snowy season, per day if the snowfall is more than usual for that time of year (especially for states that don’t see much snow) or on a will-call basis. The companies tend to invoice monthly for per-time services, charging customers for each removal of snow. Some will even charge per inch of snow if the accumulated snowfall is particularly deep.
A contractor working on a full-season basis will quote their services, and be paid upfront. Each company has its own specific terms and conditions. For example, some companies only contract for a certain number of trips, others have no particular limitation. In comparison, the client makes the call to the contracting company offering its services on a will-call basis for a single clearing. As it is not a service provided by the city, these companies will price their services higher.
The go-to method for snow removal is sodium chloride – ordinary table salt. (Other substances such as glycols and alcohols are used at airports, as salt corrodes an aircraft’s frame. And care must be taken when selecting chemicals for snow removal, as many have toxic and corrosive properties!) Occasionally, a contractor will perform roof cleaning services as well. To accomplish the task, the employees performing the snow removal use hand shovels, snow blowers, heavy front-end loaders, plows, and tractors.
Cities and other urban areas that get routine snowfall will usually have their own fleets of snow removers. The expense that goes into maintaining these large fleets is a significant part of the annual public works budget, and the planning of future urban expansion in these cities is impacted by how efficiently snow can be removed. This is a major logistical expense, and thousands work around the clock to ensure the safety of urban roads after the heavy snowfall. The roads and highways that see the most use are cleared and those roads with hills or sharp corners are also a priority. Mass transit is given priority as well, as this is a significant mode of transportation for many living in an urban area.
In large cities like NYC, significant funds are set aside each year for the removal of precipitation from the roads to ensure that the city can function as normal. For the individual, although without the fleets and manpower of the large urban areas, a snow shovel or blower can make the difference.