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Hopkins Airport rolls out fleet of new snow plows to keep runway clear this winter

CLEVELAND, Ohio-- The plow blade on one of the City of Cleveland's newest airport plows is so big that it could almost clear off the entire express lane of I 271 southbound by itself.

But it takes at least a dozen of the plows working in tandem to clear the 11,000-foot runway at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport-- down to the tarmac.

Don't forget the snowblower. It can throw wet, heavy Lake Effect snow at least 60 feet, because there's no point in cleaning the runway only to have the snow blow back on the tarmac.

The city has received grants over the past two years to upgrade its snow removal fleet.

And not only just the plows, but even combo machines that plow, de-ice and brush the tarmac surface all at the same time. There's even a machine designed to clear away snow from the path lights along the runway.

The upgrade, the city says, was long overdue and will prove to be more efficient.

"We can clear the 11,000 foot runway in about 20 minutes now," airport director Fred Szabo said. "It used to take 45 minutes."

The city says it is also made an extreme effort to improve the safety of the vehicles crossing the runway during a snow incident.

Back in January, a plow driver crossed in front of a plane on take-off, narrowly missing it.

That incident occurred just months after the city was fined $700,000 for unsafe runway conditions and insufficient snow removal.

The airport director says their investigation found that in that incident the driver didn't follow established protocols for crossing the runway.

"You learn from every issue that takes place. You incorporate the lessons learned from my training sequence and I think we have one of the strongest training programs now; we've actually looked at other airports to get best practices. You learn all the time," Szabo said.

One of the big changes to the snow removal plan is that the city will no longer just staff by forecast.

They say if any snow is in the forecast -- no matter if it's an inch or three feet -- every piece of snow removal equipment will be manned and ready to go.

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