Infrastructure & Environment

Keeping the Streets of America's Snowiest City Clean

There are places nationwide that get more snow, but among cities with populations greater than 100,000, Syracuse's snowfall is supreme.
by | February 1, 2010

On March 30, 1992, after Syracuse, N.Y., had seen record snowfall in excess of 162.5 inches for the 1991-1992 winter season, the Syracuse Common Council unanimously approved the following resolution:

"Be it resolved, on behalf of the snow-weary citizens of the city of Syracuse, any further snowfall is expressly outlawed in the city of Syracuse until December 24, 1992."

Though this resolution gave no power against the weather, as two more inches of snow fell on the city two days later, it did provide humor that helped residents make it to spring.

The next winter was the snowiest ever -- 192.2 inches of the white stuff blanketed the town.

There are places nationwide that get more snow, but among America's cities with populations greater than 100,000, Syracuse's snowfall is supreme. Yes, there are years when Buffalo and Rochester do better, but if you want to bet on it, put your money on Syracuse. An average year finds total accumulation of 115.6 inches covering this city, which is 25.6 square miles and home to approximately 150,000 residents.

In good economic times and bad, snow is a fact of life for central New Yorkers. If the snow is not moved off the streets -- and fast -- life would come to a halt here. How do they do it? They push it aside with plows, cart it away with dump trucks and melt it with salt -- just like they've been doing for 100 years. And when necessary, they do it around the clock every day.

The only place you'll see things done a bit differently is at Syracuse Hancock International Airport. There, due to Federal Aviation Administration regulations, salt is forbidden on the runways. To keep from breaking the lights imbedded in the tarmac, small wheels mounted under the plows keep those plows just off the ground. The airport also has giant sweepers and snow blowers, which wouldn't work on city streets.

Let's face it, if you need to move a lot of snow, you'll need a lot of good equipment. But you'll also need a lot of hearty people who are willing to go out there and get it done. Syracuse, thank goodness, has both.

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David Kidd  |  design director
dkidd@governing.com  | 

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