How do US cities get rid of snow?

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The snowploughs are out in force in Boston, where 1.5m (61ins) has fallen in a month, but Mayor Martin Walsh says the city is running out of space in which to dump it. How do other snowy cities get rid of it?

The most common solution is dumping it where it can melt away. Last week, Chicago endured 48cm (19ins) of snow. As it piled up along roads, some of it was hauled away to 500 sites around the city - car parks and other empty spaces.

In Minneapolis, they haul snow into one large empty publicly owned space, according to Mike Kennedy of Minneapolis Public Works. But taking snow away with trucks is expensive and slow, he says. In nearby St Paul in 2011, city workers hauled and stacked so much snow into one empty spot it became known as "Mount Midway", which didn't melt until May.

Boston has similar sites they call "snow farms", but those are filling up and the city is considering an extraordinary measure - using the ocean. After two back-to-back massive storms in 2010, Baltimore ploughed snow right into the city's Inner Harbor. While this may seem like a no-brainer for cities near water, the practice is frowned upon for environmental reasons.

It means dumping salt, vehicle fluids and debris into the sea, so a city has to first notify its state government. But Boston Mayor Martin Walsh says it would be justified. "We're not at a public safety concern yet, but we will be if we keep getting snow like this," he told the Boston Globe.

An alternative is to use snow melters, large generator-powered machines that use hot water to melt 30-150 tonnes an hour. The melted water is often poured into nearby storm drains - preventing it from refreezing. But one machine costs more than $200,000 (£131,000) and uses about 60 gallons of diesel fuel an hour - so they are best used as a last resort if dumping space is hard to find.

Reporting by Taylor Brown

Image copyright Reuters
Image copyright Getty Images

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