Piling up

Major snow events are an all-hands-on-deck experience.

Photo courtesy of Jonah Daigle

Snow events of any size take serious planning. But when Mother Nature drops seven feet of snow on a city, it takes things to a whole new level.

That’s why Jonah Daigle, president and CEO of Outside Unlimited, says his team had to be ready for anything in Buffalo, N.Y. this past November.

“In an instance like what happened in Buffalo — it really just all comes down to the team and the services partners that work with you,” he says.

Outside Unlimited, headquartered in New Hampshire, operates in 11 Northeastern states from Virginia to Maine. “Basically, we’re a snow removal company that does landscaping in the off season and sweeping when we have to,” Daigle says.

Daigle says the first step to any successful snow plan is being prepared ahead of time.

“We were fortunate. We were there before the snow even started,” he says. “Our teams got there Thursday night as it got dark and when the sun came up on Friday, and they were getting two to four inches an hour, crews were already in place getting rest, so we were able to hit the ground running.”

Daigle says in terms of extreme events, companies with multiple branches should consolidate resources to the area being hit.

“As far as putting things together, you have to move equipment in from out of market because when you get seven feet of snow, there is no extra equipment in the market,” he says.

“Everybody’s working. Our out-of-town team was able to work with our local team to keep the stores open and keep people safe.”

With decades of experience, Daigle says he has noticed one common weather pattern.

“Typically, when we have above average temperatures in the month of November, it tends to be a snowier winter overall,” he says.

Daigle adds he’s noticing other shifts in the weather over recent seasons.

“One of the other things we’re seeing in the Northeast is we’re getting a lot more ice events. But I would much rather plow a foot of snow than deal with a quarter inch of ice. I can make the snow go away. Ice is a whole other beast.”

Daigle says the main problem with ice removal is the increased material costs.

“Ice costs more money to manage,” he says. “Salt prices are high because the diesel prices are high. It can be up 15- to 20% depending on how close you are to a hub.”

Outside Unlimited had to bring in snow melters and out-of-town staff to handle the 80 inches of snow that fell in three days in Buffalo, N.Y., this past November.
Photo courtesy of Jonah Daigle


Making snow melt

Daigle says the problem with so much snow is what to do with it. That’s why his company got to work utilizing snow melters to assist their commercial clients.

He adds that snow melters are an extremely effective, and innovative, way of dealing with major snow events.

“We have the snow melters for what I would call extremely large events,” Daigle says. “Like the nearly 80 inches Buffalo received. I had three snow melters in the market for that. And at that time, we were the only ones up there melting snow.”

Daigle says not only was it important to clear the snow quickly for emergency services, but also for keeping customers happy.

“A lot of people don’t understand what seven feet of snow looks like,” he says. “Especially in three days. That’s just an incredible amount of snow.”

But despite rising fuel costs, Daigle says using a snow melter is still more profitable.

“When push comes to shove, the melters use a lot of fuel but we can melt 25 or 30 dump trucks an hour,” he says. “Melting is more economical. The melters do burn a lot of fuel…but even though a melter uses 150 gallons an hour, the three dump trucks would burn between 200-300 gallons. ”

Daigle adds that no matter the method used for snow removal, everyone is compelled to charge more just to keep up with fuel increases. If diesel prices are inflated, melting is still cheaper.

Another benefit of utilizing the melters, or really any heavy equipment, is it saves on labor, something Daigle says is a constant struggle no matter the market.

“With the dump trucks, you need all those drives and employees are getting harder and harder to find,” he says.

“It takes two people to run the melter plus the people operating the loaders…it just makes a lot more sense.”


The author is assistant editor with Lawn & Landscape.

August 2023
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