The Hidden Cost Of Snow
12:45 pm, February 8th | by Colette McIntyre
While you are (hopefully) heading out of the office early, preparing for a night of spiked hot chocolate and a marathon of Boy Meets World (amirite?), New York City authorities have already started battling the winter storm that The Weather Channel has named “Nemo.” The Department of Transportation has its 365 salt spreaders locked and loaded, ready to roll out as soon as two inches hits the ground; the New York State Thruway Authority is coating highways with a salt brine pre-treatment which is said to work like a no-stick Teflon. Local governments hope that the salt brine will save up to 30 percent on snow removal costs, which begs the question: just how much do we spent on snow?
In 2010, New York City spent its entire $38.8 million snow removal budget on a December storm that incapacitated the city with 20 inches of snow. Due to that overwhelming snowfall, the Sanitation Department ending up spending a total of $75.7 million in the 2010-2011 winter, far surpassing expectations. Why does snow cost the city so much? Well, snow removal costs are mostly fixed. The Department of Sanitation sets each year’s budget as an average of past years’ spending. The money pays for plows, rock salt, and labor costs. Two winters ago, the sky-high tab included $32.9 million in employee overtime and $20 million for 333,092 tons of rock salt.
This weekend’s storm has the potential for significant snow accumulation: The National Weather Service is estimating that the city will be hit with about 6.8 inches of the stuff. In order to combat Nemo, the city has 1,800 sanitation trucks ready to spread 250,000 tons of rock salt across 6,300 miles of roadways. At $59.90 a ton, the rock salt alone has cost New York City about $15 million. But, as snowfall increases over the afternoon, you shouldn’t fret over how budget concerns will affect New York City’s ability to bounce back from the storm. As Mayor Bloomberg spokesman Jason Post said in 2011, directly after a particularly cruel winter that sent the city more than $40 million over its snow budget, “We’ve never changed our snow-fighting plans due to budget concerns. We’ll find the money elsewhere.”