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'A challenge' for Thunder Bay airport crews to clear mounds of snow from 2 storms in 2 weeks

Two major winter storms in less than two weeks kept crews at the Thunder Bay International Airport busy through late December and early January. The heavy wet snow, which accumulated unusually quickly, is another sign of changing weather patterns said Ryan Brading, manager of airport services.

Storm on Dec., 27, 2018 dumped 40 cm of heavy wet snow in 12 hours, says manager of airport services

Ryan Brading, manager of services at the Thunder Bay, Ont., airport says changing weather patterns, such as more heavy, wet snow falling more quickly can be 'a challenge' for crews to clear. (Cathy Alex/CBC )

Two major winter storms in less than two weeks kept crews at the Thunder Bay International Airport Authority Inc., busy through late December and early January.

"It's been a challenge," said Ryan Brading, the manager of airport services at the northwestern Ontario facility, which is the fourth busiest in Ontario, and number 16 on the list across Canada. 

During both storms, the snow "came very fast, and in a very small amount of time." He noted that on December 27, 2018 "within 12 hours, we received about 40 centimetres of snow and that's unheard of. We've never experienced that since we started tracking our winter response at the airport."

'Be patient when snow affects our service'

Thunder Bay was hit hard by two winter storms in under two weeks over the holiday break... It meant a lot of snow clearing to do, in a big hurry, for the crews at the Thunder Bay airport.. We'll hear from the head of airport services about the challenges of heavy snowfalls, icy rains in November and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns. 7:05

Each airline must take care of de-icing their fleet, but Brading's crews are responsible for plowing and de-icing — using a mixture of solid and liquid agents — all asphalt surfaces, including runways, taxiways and roads. 

"We almost used all our reserves over the past two weeks," said Brading, adding "we are in our emergency contingency amount," although more was expected to arrive Wednesday.

The Thunder Bay airport, as far as Brading knows, is the only one to publish a timeline for service delivery, based on snow accumulation.

"If you name a certain amount of accumulation, and a certain amount of snow type, I'll look at my chart and tell you exactly how many hours it will take for us to clean that up."

However, he does ask people to "be patient when snow affects our service, and our parking lot, and it does take time to get out there and clean it properly."

Brading to next winter storm: 'Bring it!'

It's possible the estimates for snow clearing times may need some adjustment, due to changes in weather patterns Brading has noticed over the past 10 years.

The airport is getting more rain, less snow in November, and winter snow is changing from light, dry, fluffy flakes, to a blend a heavy wet snow and ice.

Brading said he is constantly re-evaluating equipment and materials.

For instance, instead of replacing a snowplow with another plow he might opt for a new multi-purpose vehicle, which "can apply sand and blow the snow and plow the snow all in one unit, so rather than using three units to do one job, we use one unit to do three jobs."

With equipment like that, Brading said he isn't worried about getting hit by another big dump of snow in the near future.

"'I say bring it and June is just a few months away."

You can hear the full interview with Ryan Brading on CBC's Superior Morning here.