Prepare for what is to come this Spring 2015

It is only the middle of February, but Boston, Massachusetts and the Northeast are making a run for the coldest and snowiest winter on record. They have received over 90 inches of snow (about 7.5 feet), so far, and temperatures are approximately 11 degrees below average. The main transit system, the MBTA, crippled by the unprecedented snowfall and extreme cold are leaving thousands without a way to go to work. Businesses are feeling the effects of the lack of income because customers cannot venture out due to the weather and road conditions.

Snow banks at intersections create dangerous driving conditions.
Snow banks at intersections create dangerous driving conditions.

Customers can hardly make it to the stores, travel by car or by foot is treacherous, and potentially deadly, as evidenced by more than one person struck by a snowplow. Parking is another problem because monumental snow piles not only reduce parking spaces, but also obstruct visibility.

Businesses and homeowners alike have so much snow buildup that roofs are collapsing and local government authorities warned owners to remove the snow. Schools throughout the region have consumed all of their snow days and other schools in the Northeast have closed due to concerns that the weight of snow and ice might cause roofs to cave in, burying students and faculty. The National Guard, called in to assist in snow removal and equipment from neighboring states are helping to alleviate the wintery situation, but Old Man Winter seems to have another agenda with unrelenting forecasts of more snow and extremely cold temperatures. Many buildings, experiencing frozen pipes, already have water damage and will not be repaired until heat is reestablished or access to the damaged area is facilitated, or both. Adding to the winter woes, ice dams are wreaking havoc with roofs, walls, ceilings and floors. Sidewalks are impassable and snowbanks are too high to throw the additional accumulating snow on top. Snow banks on the roadsides, snow mounds in shopping plazas and snow farms are overflowing. All of this accumulated snow creates another problem; such as where do you put all the snow?

blizzard of 2005 018 (2) (2)Dumping the snow into lakes, ponds and the ocean is unacceptable because the rock salt and road chemicals are environmentally hazardous. In response to this unacceptable practice, the authorities in many towns and cities along the Atlantic coastline have decided to use large powerful snow-melters and have the melted runoff go directly into storm drains that flow through underground pipes, primarily to lakes, ponds and the ocean. Unless the runoff is properly filtered, of the automobile fluids (such as antifreeze, brake fluids, fuel i.e. gasoline and diesel, oil, transmission fluid, hydraulic fluids), and other contaminants in addition to the rock salt and road chemicals, the environment will still be affected. So, instead of just dumping the snow into the Atlantic directly, it is melted and sent through a conduit to the ocean bypassing any filtering. This apparent oversight of the law appears to be undertaken to save money, not necessarily to deliberately hide the facts from the public. Transparency anyone?

Eventually, hidden problems will reveal themselves as the snow melts. Warmer temperatures, rain and the sun will eventually melt the snow back to water. As the heavy, wet, water-laden snow melts, it compacts and compresses the snow beneath it closer to the ground. The air temperature, will increase or decrease the melting period, or even cause it to stop melting, refreeze and turn it back into ice. This ice, under the compressed and melting snow, cannot leach into the ground as it melts because the ground itself is frozen. The melting ice has no place to go and as it continues to melt, it builds up as packed ice starting from the frozen ground working its way up towards the surface of the snow. Once the ice, becomes close enough to the surface, it depends on the sun and temperature to begin its final transition into water.

This is where a problem lies. Melting snow and the frozen ice below it combined with warming temperatures may not be a problem in many areas during a normal winter. However, this years’ combination of the recent dumping of the enormous quantity of snow, the ice under the snow and the impenetrable frozen ground will create significant flooding. We hope that the warm-up will be gradual and the melt-water will find a safe place to run off. Otherwise, as spring approaches and the sun raises higher in the sky, if the temperature increases quickly, or a significant rain occurs, then the snow meltwater will have no place to go because, as mentioned earlier, the ground under the snowpack will still be frozen and the flooding will commence. 

Prepare yourself for the spring thaw, because spring, according to the calendar is only a month away. Warmer temperatures rising too quickly will cause rivers, streams, and creeks to rise. Ponds and lakes will accept the runoff water until they overflow. The meltwater overflow will enter basements, buildings built in low-lying areas, city and municipal underground utilities and of course subways.

Prepare yourselves for the flooding that is imminent after the winter of 2015 ends. Roads will be similar to driving on rugged terrain due to the frost eaves that created the potholes. Water entering manholes will cause electrical shorts creating power outages. Torrents of water may wash out roads or produce sinkholes. The heavy snowpack, slush, ice, debris and clogged storm drains will only exacerbate the problem. Supplies of food, water, first aid and sanitation may be restricted or non-existent for several days to flooded areas. Help may be delayed until the flood waters recede.

Be wary of a quick warm up this spring, it just might wash you away. Be prepared with a survival kit or a preparedness package that contains food, water, a first aid kit, shelter and warmth and sanitation. For complete emergency disaster preparedness supplies, please visit our web site.