What Does NYC Do When There's No Place Left to Put the Snow? Meet the Melters

The city's Department of Sanitation unveils their secret weapons after big storms like the one that just hit: snow melters that act almost like industrial-sized hot tubs, but for snow

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No matter what age you are, snow is almost always fun on the first day, at least to look at. And the past storm gave plenty for New Yorkers to look at, with Central Park getting more than 17 inches.

But with all that snow comes a problem: There's not enough room in the city to put all the white stuff somewhere. So now that the city is trying to clear it all away, where does the city turn?

They break out the big guns. Or maybe big heaters is more accurate.

The snow in Mount Arlington, New Jersey, may have just set an all-time record in the Garden State. Sarah Wallace reports.

The city's Department of Sanitation unveils their secret weapons after big storms like the one that just hit. The snow melters act almost like industrial-sized hot tubs, but for snow. A front loader scoops up the snow and then drops it into the melter.

One might assume that they have to keep the melter at very hot temperatures in order to quickly deal with all the snow, but that's not the case. It only has to be warmer than the snow itself really, around 40 degrees.

Once the snow is changed into its liquid for, it goes through a screen to catch large debris, and it's off to the water treatment facility.

The melters can take care of 60 to 120 tons of snow an hour — a rate of about 240 gallons per minute. For comparison's sake, that's like flushing 150 toilets all at once.

Fire hydrants are vital to fighting fires. That's why Yonkers firefighters want you to dig out the snow around them. Marc Santia reports.

The melters are not brought out for just any storms, however. The Sanitation Department has to consider other factors like whether there are more upcoming storm threats, which would bring more snow that would have nowhere to go on its own. The melters are mostly meant to help with quality of life and safety issues after major storms.

Sanitation Commissioner Edward Grayson said the melters were brought out this time because of how much snow the city got from the last storm, combined with the threat of another possible storm this coming weekend. However, it now appears that the storm will stay south of the city — but it shows how much planning the department has to go through in order to unleash the melting beasts.

"There was a threat of another snowfall this weekend. So we're looking that far ahead, we're going to run out of room," if the storm had hit and the melters weren't used, Grayson said. "The perfect situation to deploy the melters."

Crews hauled in piles of snow from across the five boroughs to be melted, about 30 tons already waiting. The city has a total of 30 such melters on hand, but for the current storm and situation, seven were deployed throughout the city.

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