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Make the weather work for you

Make the weather work for you

By Dale Keep


With fuel and salt prices up and the availability of salt questionable, it is essential that companies use all their resources to ensure their operations are running as efficiently as possible.

There’s a saying: “Do the right thing, at the right time, and in the right way.” In snow and ice management, the use of current, accurate weather and surface condition data in both long- and short-term decision-making can increase a company’s effectiveness and efficiency, and reduce costs by ensuring labor and materials are being put to work at the optimal time.

Using weather information
For best results, operational decisions made before, during and after the storm event must be based on good weather observa-tions, and current, accurate forecasts and surface conditions information.

Evaluating this data from start to finish will help you achieve your desired goals with minimum resources. Storms can be unpre-dictable, so weather data reassessments should be done regularly. They don’t take much time, and they make you money by sav-ing resources.

Pre-storm planning
Make pre-storm planning and regular weather and operational reassessments during the event standard procedure. Weather and surface conditions information and operational decisions should be readily available to all involved:

  • When will the event start/stop? How long is it expected to last?
  • What type of event is expected?
  • How much precipitation is expected?
  • Will wind be a factor?
  • What are current pavement surface conditions?
  • What’s been done?
  • What needs to be done next?


Total storm management
This is defined as “The selection of a sequence of appropriate strategies that yield the desired level of service at the lowest total cost.” TSM requires a planned and systematic approach, including regular reassessments of storm and operations status. Site-specific weather and surface conditions data is critical to this process.

Strategy selection
Using quality and pertinent information, you can make good decisions as to how to best meet the current and projected conditions. Decisions include:

  • Whether to use deicers, what type and how much
  • Whether to reapply
  • Coordinating plowing with chemical use
  • Scheduling crews to cover the length of the event
  • Facilitating cleanup at storm’s end.


The timing and effectiveness of operational strategies is highly dependent on the availability of timely and accurate weather and current pavement conditions information. With good information and a planned approach to storm events, challenges can be met or minimized. The return in investment for tools required will come quickly while improving your bottom line and, most often, customer satisfaction. SB

BY DALE KEEP


Media: Usually communicated through radio and television and typically includes government weather information and data received from radio frequency weather channels and web sites. Information is normally not specific enough and doesn’t include pavement surface condi-tions.

Internet: This typically falls into the same quality category as “Media” weather and is general in nature. Good decisions are based on site-specific weather forecasts and current pavement conditions. Many weather information sources may appear to be exactly what’s needed, but are totally unreliable. Since there is no oversight or control of weather forecasting output, it is critical to know the source, accuracy and age of the information.

Private Sector Forecasts:
Greatly improved and usually more site-specific. Reports can be customized, updated regularly, and delivered in a variety of methods.

Automated Sensors: Affordable and easy to use, they provide real-time observations of weather and pavement surface temperatures and conditions. They provide accurate surface conditions data  even when covered with snow or ice. This is critical since the key to good decisions is knowing the true temperature at the interface between the pavement surface and the snow/ice. Quality sensors do this and more, and save material and money when the information is used regularly for decision-making.

Note that a 1° change in surface temperature (at the pavement surface) can have a 50% or more impact on chemical application require-ments. Knowing conditions at the pavement surface, regardless of the appearance of the surface, is critical for sound decision-making. This can only be accomplished with data collected at that interface by affordable, quality, calibrated data collection devices.

Choose your weather resources wisely

Dale Keep owns Ice & Snow Technologies,
a training and consulting company based
in Walla Walla, WA. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Last modified on Wednesday, 19 May 2010 15:17
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1 Comment

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 16 February 2011 19:16 posted by Don Williams

    I liked the artical I have been doing this for years. I did know that I was doing TSM. I am glad there is other contractors that do this. Over the years that I have been doing it , I noticed we would be done shortly after the storm was over.

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