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Buffalo airport snow-fighting crews are prepared for lake effect snow event

Some determined men and women and their fleet of snow-fighting vehicles are prepared to do battle with copious amounts of the white stuff.

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. — There's the possibility that this latest lake effect snowstorm could make a mess at Buffalo Niagara International Airport at the start of one of the busiest travel weeks of the year.

But some determined men and women and their fleet of snow-fighting vehicles are prepared to do battle with copious amounts of the white stuff.

Buffalo Niagara International Airport airfield superintendent Joe Guarino puts it this way: "We get 100 inches of snow, so we're pretty, pretty good at it."

Guarino backs up that confident claim with a highly trained workforce and massive and varied pieces of equipment to keep an area the size of 400 football fields clear for those 174,000 pound jetliners to take off and land safely. 

After a quick cruise down the main runway 523, which is two miles long, we found the first 60-foot MT, or multi tasking vehicle. It is one of five that carries a large plow, a broom to sweep snow, and a high speed air blower to clear any residue.

Guarino says the five MTs form a conga line to clear the runway, which is 150 feet wide.

"They stagger down the runway and they basically do almost the full width of the runway," Guarino said.

Then there are huge snow-blowers to carve out the highly stacked edges of the runway and taxiways. 

Also they have chemical de-icing trucks to spray a non-corrosive material for ice buildup on the runways.

And finally there is the snow-melter for any snow around the plane gates at the terminal. Guarino says "it's like two furnaces in there. Like a house with large furnaces. They actually melt the snow. It melts 135 tons of snow an hour."

During a storm, they're in close contact with the tower to try and handle cleanup between departures and arrivals and an estimated 100 flights per day. 

Guarino noted: "If the runway is not safe we'll close the airport until it's safe to open."

2 On Your Side asked, "Is there a lot of pressure though from the airlines. Do they sometimes give you pressure and say hey we wanna get this plane in get this plane out. Do you face a lot of pressure at times?

Guarino responded: "Yeah, you can get that. But we have a good working relationship."

Guarino added: "A lot of them may cancel based on the forecast, so that helps us a little bit, because then we can maintain the airport rather than not have that pressure of you know aircraft constantly coming in, though we do maintain the airport as best we can."

NFTA Aviation Director Lee Weitz is also proud of this team.

"We have a great record as you probably know. We have a great record of keeping Buffalo open. We rarely close,"Weitz said. "I think last winter we closed for about an hour total for the whole winter season.

"We never close the terminal though so keep that in mind. The terminal here never closes. We might close the two runways for a while, an hour or so to clean them." 

Joe Guarino and his staffers have actually won recent awards for their snow removal prowess and they help host a national symposium for snow-fighting techniques and equipment here in Buffalo in the spring.  

"We pride ourselves on keeping this airport safe. For the traveling public trust us to do the best for them," Guarino said.


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