John Janes | Landscaping Marketing Manager
One of the best ways to help your business have a successful snow removal season is by being prepared when winter storms strike. A good way to do that is through learning more about weather models and systems and how to make accurate weather predictions. I sat down with Caterpillar customer Chris Colitas (aka Snow Boss) of Keystone Snow Management to learn more about how he uses meteorology for snow removal and how other businesses can use it too.
According to the National Weather Service, weather models take in data from many sources, ranging from satellites to weather balloons to aircraft, which then are input into the model itself to create a picture of our weather. These models can be used to predict hours or days into the future, so knowing how to read them comes in handy for snow removal businesses.
Chris has always had an interest in meteorology, and so applying it to his snow removal business was a no-brainer.
“Every piece of equipment, every drop of salt, is predicated on what the weather is going to do,” says Chris. “We need to plan out how we’re going to attack each storm, especially being in Pennsylvania, since sometimes they’re just ice, sometimes they start as ice and turn to snow, and sometimes they start as snow and turn to ice. Having that knowledge is imperative to the operation.”
Chris uses his meteorological knowledge to influence what materials and resources he uses for each storm. If the storm will start out as rain, for example, he and his crew won’t pre-treat anything. He also needs to know whether there will be enough snow to warrant scraping. He looks at models about two weeks in advance and continues monitoring throughout the winter season to stay prepared.
Chris has found that his knowledge of meteorology has made a huge difference to his commercial and industrial clients, where snow and ice can have a direct impact on their businesses. These clients need to maintain safe conditions for employees and suppliers since many of them don’t shut down during winter weather.
“Being able to react to changing situations fast enough is a huge point of differentiation for us,” he notes. “For our clients, it means we’re going to show up and show up quickly and take care of the liability that snow and ice present to them.”
His ability to act fast when winter weather is going to hit also helps him and his crew get to the job site as the snow is falling, rather than having to play catch up after it’s over as some other crews do.
And his understanding of weather models hasn’t just helped his business – he has taken on a mentorship role with other businesses in the area who ask for his forecasting advice.
If you’re interested in learning more about meteorology for snow removal, Chris recommends a few resources to get started.
“Pivotal is my go-to weather modeling site,” Chris says. “Being in Pennsylvania, I also follow Steve DiMartino of NY NJ PA Weather because he’s good at explaining the ‘why’ behind the models. He can be helpful even if you don’t live in this area just to learn the reason behind what we’re seeing, but there are other local meteorologists out there who can also be helpful.”
Landscaping Marketing Manager
John Janes has been bringing his diversified expertise to sales and marketing initiatives at Caterpillar for more than a decade. Not only does he hold an LIC certification from the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), CSP and ASM certifications from the Snow & Ice Management Association (SIMA), but Janes also serves as an American Concrete Institute (ACI)-certified concrete flatwork technician.
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