The winter of 2022-23 has been very mild in Philadelphia- as of publication, there have not been any winter storms with accumulated snow. There was no need to prepare the plow vehicles or to have the aircraft defrosted because of icy conditions. So, what does that mean for PHL, a northeastern airport accustomed to preparing for snow? How does a snowless winter affect the way the airport prepares for inclement weather? Does it redirect an overabundance of resources? What about the staff and dedicated equipment?
According to PHL Pavement and Grounds (P&G) Supervisor Tony Alfonse, this winter has been very mild- as have been the last few winters. Alfonse should know—he’s been at the airport for 24 snowy seasons. “The worst storm that I’ve seen during my time here was in 2016. That year, 18 inches of snow fell at PHL- we were on site for five straight days pre-treating and trying to keep up with the snow, wind, and ice,” he said. As hard as the team worked, at one point, they couldn’t do anything. “We had to stop movement.”
When a storm is anticipated, P&G prepares by assigning two-person teams to operate the multifunction trucks dedicated to snow removal. They pre-treat the grounds and, once snow begins, concentrate on de-icing planes and snow removal.
So far, this winter has only required 700 gallons of pre-treating materials to be used at PHL. In a normal season with average snowfall or frozen conditions, PHL will use over 79,000 gallons of pre-treater, followed by 100,000 gallons of salt, sand, liquid deicer, and solid deicer. Since the season has been so mild, the materials that would have been used for winter storms will be stockpiled for future use.
The P&G crews at PHL are responsible for maintaining the runways, the roadways surrounding airports and the sidewalks outside of the terminals. Their primary mission is to make sure that the airport is safe and open for operation. The team hates to close- they take extreme pride in continuous service.
Mild winters have ups and downsides when it comes to operations. On the upside, budgeted dollars are saved on overtime hours and the purchase of materials. Most importantly, there are no weather delays or stoppages due to poor conditions!
The downside is that on the job, practical training time is lost. Additionally, because the mechanical equipment has been idle, it is susceptible to breakdowns from lack of usage. The team ensures the equipment undergoes frequent maintenance to guard against disruption.
The planning and execution our teams perform is invaluable. They are the ones in the elements, working to keep PHL and PNE open. As mentioned in a previous story on PHL.org, “P&G’s training and hard work does not go unnoticed. They received honorable mention for the Balchen-Post Award for Excellence in Airport Snow and Ice Control from the Northeast Chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives (NEC-AAAE) for their work.” They are superstars!
By the way, don’t get too excited about the lack of snow. This is Philly, it’s likely to snow again- in April.