Portland, Maine is on the verge of breaking FAA rules near their airport regarding the maximum height of a structure near an active runway. But, they’re not building a new terminal, or a parking garage, or an office building. No, the structure they’re dealing with is a huge pile of snow.
New England has been socked with record amounts of snow this winter and they’re having trouble finding places to put it. Time reports that Boston recently received permission from Massachusetts’ environmental agency to start dumping their snow in the ocean. They’ve accumulated over five feet of snow in just 30 days.
Portland has also picked up more than five feet of snow, with two of those feet happening in just the last three weeks, according to Mashable. They, too, would dump snow in the harbor, except that practice pollutes the ocean with things like road salt, litter, and debris from the asphalt. So they, like everyone else, have been forced to find other ways of dumping their snow. They usually pile it up near the airport, but there’s a limit to how high they can go, even for something as transient as snow.
The FAA has rules in place that restrict the height of structures near an airport. It makes approaches safer for smaller aircraft that take off and come in at lower altitudes than the big jetliners. According to WCSH 6, Portland’s snow pile could send a signal that there’s an obstruction on the runway, causing all sorts of problems for both departing and arriving aircraft.
Generally, snow melts in between snowstorms, which helps keep the height of Portland’s snow pile well below the FAA’s restrictions. It’s not just the amount of snow they’ve received, however, it’s also the frigid temperatures. Snow in those temperatures slowly turns to ice, but doesn’t melt enough to reduce the height of a pile that size.
So Portland, for the first time in its history, has had to open a second snow dump (in Boston, they’re called “snow farms”). There’s really no other option at this point, if their current snow pile is to remain “legal” under FAA rules, and if they don’t want to put their air traffic in potential danger. They may, eventually, have to resort to dumping it in the ocean, depending on what happens with the rest of this winter.
Watch the whole news story, via USA Today, here:
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