The Science Of Snow Removal

Winter Storm Elliot that impacted that passed through the Midwest and tracked up to the Northeast, left extreme cold and feet of snow in its wake.  At Penta Services, we use every extreme event like this as an opportunity to learn and create better practices for managing not only extreme events, but also the more common winter weather events.

Salt In Snow and Ice Management Program

The absolute brutal cold that dipped temperatures into the negative range across much of the Midwest, is one of the most crucial components that alters a snow and ice management plan.  Rock Salt, which is the most widely used deicing chemical used to clear roadways and parking lots has an effective temperature range of about 15 degrees to 32 degrees Fahrenheit.  On the lower end of this range, other variables such as vehicle traffic, sunlight, and actual pavement temperature can impact effectiveness.  With temperatures in our hometown reaching -8 Fahrenheit when Elliot passed through, we were obviously well below salts effective temperature range. 

We saw plenty of snow contractors feverishly applying more and more salt trying to win the battle against the temperatures.  Unfortunately, when it’s this cold the temperatures were just too cold to create the endothermic reaction necessary to melt the snow and ice.  After the event, these lots were a salty mess.

Alternatives to Salt For Snow Removal

What was needed during these extreme cold temperatures was an exothermic reaction to get the snow and ice to melt.  The two most common chemicals used in the Midwest for this are Calcium Chloride and Magnesium Chloride.  Both of these chemicals when mixed with water create HEAT!  Penta employs several methods of delivering mostly Calcium during these extreme cold events.  

  • Pure Calcium Chloride pellets can be mixed with bulk salt in hoppers and applied directly to paved surfaces
  • Coating rock salt with Calcium or Magnesium prior to the season
  • Spraying salt with a pre-wet system that coats salt in a liquid calcium mixture as it comes out of our salt spreaders

All of these methods create the exothermic reaction we need to melt snow and ice when temperatures dip below 15 degrees.  This reaction helps create the catalyst needed to get salt activated and working to get your property free from ice and dried out as soon as possible without over applying rock salt leaving you with a mess that gets tracked into your building.  Check out our page to see some of the other ways we are always looking to improve your snow and ice management services!