A Recipe for Instant Snowmelt: Heat and Mash

Rising temperatures helped melt snow all over the city on Wednesday, but in a parking lot at Orchard Beach, the melting was helped along by a huge cooker run by the city’s Department of Sanitation, to eliminate snow carted in from nearby areas of the Bronx.

The Sanitation Department plowed several acres of the beach’s massive parking lot, and set up a giant orange vat that cooked the snow until it melted.

Next to the melter, there were huge snowy mounds that would have made nice bunny hills for child skiers. The hill was replenished throughout the day by snow carted in on trucks operated by a multitude of agencies and private companies.

There were plows from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, dump trucks from the city’s Department of Transportation and parks department, and even Dumpsters on the back of private carting company vehicles.

Much of the snow came from hemmed-in areas like nearby City Island, where streets are narrow and space to dump snow is limited. As each new truckload of snow was dumped in the parking lot, it was scooped up by front loaders that emptied their snow into the heated vat, which had a runoff pipe that let water splash out onto the asphalt. This huge, steaming canister resembled a bubbling cauldron, and it was stoked by a worker standing over it, mashing down the snow with a pole.

The operation was near the beach’s entrance area, and, presumably to keep spectators away, snowplows had pushed a tall mound of snow against the entrance gate booths, sealing them off to passage.

Kathy Dawkins, a spokeswoman for the Sanitation Department, said there were 36 such melters being used citywide to help eliminate snow buildup throughout the city. The agency selects sites for the process after consulting with the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, to make sure that local sewers can handle the volume of water created by the melters.

Why not just let the snow melt on its own? Ms. Dawkins said the city wanted to avoid letting certain areas of the city turn into a kind of urban Alps. “If we have mountains of snow lasting until April, that’s not good,” she said. “By using the snow melters, we’re able to haul the snow to the location and get rid of it.”

The melters can handle 60 tons per hour, and create 240 gallons of water per minute, she said.

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