Technology helped Fort Collins prepare for blizzard conditions

While Colorado was dealing with Wednesday’s blizzard conditions, Fort Collins’ Larry Schneider was focused on it on Tuesday.

Schneider, director of operations for the street department for the city of Fort Collins, said that when a weather event comes, much of the decisions on how the roads are going to be handled are made the day before. That’s because of the technology available to help make those decisions.

“We have a pre-storm meeting where we’re looking to see pavement temperature, wind direction, wind speeds, air temperature,” Schneider told BizWest. “That gives us an idea of what kind of materials we’re going to be using in our toolbox.”

Many of the tools Schneider says Fort Collins uses are sensors from Louisville-based Vaisala Inc., which creates various weather-detecting sensors. Fort Collins also uses Iteris Clearpath, software that helps analyze the data being collected.

For this particular storm, Schneider said in the pre-storm meeting they looked at the data they were collecting — Fort Collins has 14 weather stations equipped with Vaisala sensors — and made decisions based on what they were seeing. For example, because it was predicted to rain Tuesday evening, they decided not to use anti-ice on the roads on Tuesday because it would wash away. Based on when it would start snowing, they decided when to start crews and where they would be.

A big determination for the blizzard was detecting what level of grip is on the road, in order to keep cars from skidding out. Fort Collins uses Vaisala sensors to measure that grip and decide if trucks need to be deployed because the road is too slippery. Fort Collins has a mobile unit to drive around and help make these decisions.

“If we didn’t have these tools, we would be using NOAA and local forecasters, but they don’t give us the pavement temperature and can’t monitor how slippery the roads are,” Schneider said. “They can’t break it down hour by hour.”

Not only does the technology make a big difference for people’s safety, it allows for more responsible city management. Some of the products Schneider and his team use are more expensive than others, and getting accurate data helps determine whether they can use a more affordable product more effectively and save the city and taxpayers’ money.

“By getting this information, it helps us at the end of the day to use the right tools,” he said.

 

While Colorado was dealing with Wednesday’s blizzard conditions, Fort Collins’ Larry Schneider was focused on it on Tuesday.

Schneider, director of operations for the street department for the city of Fort Collins, said that when a weather event comes, much of the decisions on how the roads are going to be handled are made the day before. That’s because of the technology available to help make those decisions.

“We have a pre-storm meeting where we’re looking to see pavement temperature, wind direction, wind speeds, air temperature,” Schneider told BizWest. “That gives us an idea of what kind of materials we’re going to be using in our toolbox.”

Many of the tools Schneider says Fort Collins uses are sensors from Louisville-based Vaisala Inc., which creates various weather-detecting sensors. Fort Collins also uses Iteris Clearpath, software that helps analyze the data being collected.

For this particular storm, Schneider said in the pre-storm meeting they looked at the data they were collecting — Fort Collins has 14 weather stations equipped with Vaisala sensors — and made decisions based on what they were seeing. For example, because it was predicted to rain Tuesday evening, they decided not to use anti-ice on the roads on Tuesday because it would wash away. Based on when it would start snowing, they decided when to start crews and where they would be.

A big determination for the blizzard was detecting what level of grip is on the road, in order to keep cars from skidding out. Fort Collins…