Snow Removal Tips

With winter on the horizon, it’s time to prepare for everyone’s favorite holiday activity: shoveling snow. Rather than soldiering on through blizzards with a shovel and a bad back, why not make the job easier with a few easy tips?

Before the snow falls, take some preemptive action. Clear your yard of anything that you don’t want to get destroyed by snow (or even snow removal), such as hoses, decorations, or dog tie-outs. Stake out garden beds or any portions of your yard that contain elements that cannot be brought inside or stored in a shed, preventing accidental snow build-up when it comes time to shovel and dump snow. A little home surveying goes a long way!

If you know snow is imminent and want to lessen how much clearing you’ll have to do, consider buying a few waterproof tarps. These can be placed over sidewalks, walkways, and even cars to help protect their surfaces and decrease post-snowfall clearing. Remember to weigh the tarps down with stones or bricks, or to tie them down if being used to cover your car. After the snow has fallen, remove the tarp to reveal a clean walkway or car underneath. It may require a little shoveling to lighten the tarp’s load, but it still provides a protective barrier nonetheless.

If your shovel tosses are getting lighter because snow keeps sticking, consider using a lubricant. WD-40, petroleum jelly, and even some cooking spray can help prevent snow from sticking to your shovel, allowing for more successful scoops. Family Handyman recommends wiping down your tools before storing them to prevent rust build-up and to increase each tool’s longevity.

Rather than using a standard, straight-handled shovel or a snow-blower reliant on gas, consider upgrading to something more ergonomically- and ecologically-friendly. There are a variety to choose from, such as Garant’s sleigh shovels designed to scoop and push while lessening the strain on your back, or even the Snow Bully which uses a set of wheels to act as a small snow plow. If you’re not ready to let go of the snow shovel that has been passed down through your family for generations, consider getting an attachment for it that will still help lessen the strain on your back, such as an eziMate, which creates an additional point of leverage with a detachable handle.

If you pinched a nerve and it’s flurrying outside, break out the leaf blower to take care of some light dustings. Additionally, a wet / dry vacuum such as a Shop-Vac can be turned into a makeshift snowblower by attaching the hose to the exhaust, pointing, and blowing the snow away.

While enjoying a well-deserved rest inside, be sure to keep an eye on the snowfall. Although it may seem irritating to continuously trudge outdoors to shovel, it’s easier to move light, fluffy snow every few hours than having to somehow lift packed blocks of ice out of your driveway.

Design-Build Contract D800002: Cashless Tolling, Statewide, NY

This Design-Build project involves the design and construction of cashless tolling on the New York State Thruway ticketed system from approximately Thruway Exits 16 to 61 (MP 45.00 to MP 496.00), which will save travel time, reduce traffic, and minimize greenhouse gas emissions, benefitting the approximately 267 million vehicles that travel the Thruway each year.

The work varies on a site-by-site basis. Work generally consists of the strategic and cost effective placement of gantries, the removal of toll plazas, the reduction (in most locations) of the infrastructure footprint, positive separation of opposing traffic, signing, striping, design and construction modifications of super elevations to accommodate higher speeds through the gantry and modified toll plaza areas, landscaping, electronic work, communication buildings, tandem lot access modifications or closures or relocations, drainage work, pavement work, coordination with and/or preservation of existing utilities, asbestos and hazardous material abatement, and/or solutions to provide safe ingress and egress to and from the Thruway System.

The Cashless Tolling Constructors, LLC team, of which Stantec Consulting Services Inc and KC Engineering and Land Surveying, P.C. are Lead Designer, was selected as Best Value Team for this project. KC leads the structural engineering team, with work including providing design for four different types of gantries; generators / mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP); and communication buildings, including tie-in points to existing power and fiber sources, adequate parking space, and safe access for maintenance personnel.

KC also performs quality management, surveying, and civil and utility engineering services.

The cashless tolling system went live in November 2020, more than a month ahead of schedule, with toll booth removals, asbestos and hazardous material abatement, and final construction work to occur in 2021.

The Engineering Behind the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

Next week Thursday is Thanksgiving. And while we may spend time eating around the table Thursday evening, many people are sure to kick off the day by watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

This year due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the parade will be a little bit different with some extra adjustments in order to keep everyone safe. Macy’s collaborated with the City of New York, to build an ambitious strategy that would continue the parade tradition. According to, “In order to avoid gathering large crowds of spectators along our traditional 2.5-mile route in New York City, we have shortened the route to focus solely on the last section of our annual march. On Thanksgiving Day, we will showcase our annual celebration’s signature balloons, floats, performances and herald the arrival of Santa Claus, in front of Macy’s famed flagship store on 34th Street for our national television special on NBC.”

The concept behind the parade will remain the same, so if you’ve ever wondered about all the science and engineering behind the parade, read on.

When engineering a new balloon design, creators first sketch out a diagram, which is examined and adjusted by engineering experts, to ensure that the design will safely float. Then dimensions are determined, and a real-size clay model of the design is created, to calculate how much fabric and helium is needed.

The float then goes through months of testing, conducted by dozens of handlers. The tests are to ensure proper inflation and deflation, easy handling, and more. Then the finishing touches are added to the balloon.

Fun Facts:

  • It takes 90 minutes to inflate a balloon and 15 minutes to deflate one.
  • The average balloon requires 12,000 cubic feet of helium. That’s enough to fill about 2,500 bathtubs.
  • Balloon pilots must attend training and must be able to walk the parade route backwards. Balloon handlers support the pilot and help maintain control of the balloons. They must weigh at least 120 pounds and be in good health.
  • For more information about this year’s parade, go to: