Need some hot ideas to melt Mt. Midway

Buzzketeers, it's a big problem.

A ginormous, hulking, frozen, messy problem.

See, here in St. Paul, we've had a very snowy winter. (As of today, it has been the seventh snowiest winter on record. And the snow season isn't over yet.) When the City plows the streets, they have to put the snow somewhere. And one of the places they put it is the parking lot of the St. Paul Saints Midway Stadium, on Energy Park Drive.

The result?
Mt. Midway: Looking NNW from the few open parking spaces off Energy Park Drive. See those little bamboo fronds at the peak? Who needs Hawaii?
Mt. Midway: Looking NNW from the few open parking spaces off Energy Park Drive. See those little bamboo fronds at the peak? Who needs Hawaii?Courtesy Liza Pryor

The 550-spot parking lot is completely -- and I mean COMPLETELY -- covered with snow. It's 30, even 50, feet deep. And it goes from Energy Park Drive north to the train tracks, and from the stadium west to the end of the property. It's impressive, peeps.

It goes on...: and on...and on...I'm standing on the snow pile, with the peak with the tree to my left (west) looking north toward the train tracks.
It goes on...: and on...and on...I'm standing on the snow pile, with the peak with the tree to my left (west) looking north toward the train tracks.Courtesy Liza Pryor

And here's the problem, friends: the St. Paul Saints season opener is May 8th. And there's no way all this snow is going to melt before then. Baseball needs its parking lot back.

More pictures of Mt. Midway.

So how can we get rid of the snow? Trucking it away isn't an option, and minimal use of fossil fuels is a good thing. Buzzers, it's time to go all Mythbusters here and submit your ideas. If you've got a good one, you might get to see it in action.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Thor's picture
Thor says:

Fire, fire, fire (channeling my inner Beavis)!!!!! I think fire is a great option. The St. Paul Fire Department training site is on the other (west) side of the stadium. Why not have them set some fires around the snow pile let them burn and melt away for a while and then put them out with snow-melting water as well? Or, how about bringing Boy Scout/Girl Scout troops to the scene to practice making campfires that would melt away at the piles?

posted on Mon, 03/14/2011 - 11:31am
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Dynamite! Dynamite is Mother Nature's way of getting rid of big piles of things!

posted on Mon, 03/14/2011 - 12:11pm
Molly P's picture
Molly P says:

that's what they thought in Florence, Oregon in the 1970s...

See video

watch at your own risk (exploding dead things)

posted on Mon, 03/14/2011 - 3:35pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

The Guinness Book of World Records doesn't have an entry for the world's largest solar cooker. It should. And we should use it to melt the snow.

posted on Mon, 03/14/2011 - 12:29pm
Karen's picture
Karen says:

My thinking was in line with Liza's. Dark material to capture solar heat and increase melt times.

What about lenses? Do we have any good lenses lying around that I could use to carve my name in snow 20' tall?

Are we worried at all about what happens to the melt? Anyone nearby going to get flooded?

posted on Mon, 03/14/2011 - 2:46pm
bryan kennedy's picture

Iron pour

Temporary data center location

Hot tub festival

Pitch that pile of street debris, mud, and trash as a new age soap additive. People'll pay $25 an ounce for the meltwater.

Encourage people to take transit and ride their bikes to the game. Since when does fantastic Saint Paul baseball have to equal carshow?

posted on Mon, 03/14/2011 - 2:59pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Two thoughts:

1) some sort of feats-of-strength competition, where folks shovel snow into boxcars.

2) or the nerd equivalent -- the creation of a Rube Goldberg-esque device to move snow from the pile to waiting boxcars.

What the boxcars do with the snow, I'm not sure yet. Dump it into the river down by Pig's Eye? Except that it's really, really nasty...

posted on Mon, 03/14/2011 - 3:00pm
Karen's picture
Karen says:

Yeah - Either way, that water is nasty.

posted on Mon, 03/14/2011 - 4:23pm
Karen's picture
Karen says:

Is it possible to crowdsource this? If everyone in St Paul came out and took away a garbage bag full of snow (and dumped it in their yard), would that be enough?

posted on Mon, 03/14/2011 - 4:24pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

There's a math problem for you. First, we have to calculate the area of the parking lot, and then the volume. Divide that by the number of homeowners in St. Paul, and see if it's even possible. I think...not? But I like the idea. And I want to see the math! Do the math!

posted on Mon, 03/14/2011 - 4:31pm
bryan kennedy's picture

Considering we can't get every homeowner to walk would to their sidewalk and remove that snow, I'm guessing this might be too high of a bar.

posted on Mon, 03/14/2011 - 4:49pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Make contracts with multiple people in the townships south of the metro who own non-residential lots with a large number of acres, truck it out, spread it out, and it'll melt down there.

posted on Mon, 03/14/2011 - 6:10pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:


I say bore a hole in the mound and fill it with compost!. The natural exothermal reaction of decomp will accelerate the thaw. and cover the mound with poo too! a manure spreader could toss heaps of horse apples onto the mountain and melt the snow using the albedo effect!

posted on Tue, 03/15/2011 - 9:12am
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Wait ... won't the lot just be covered with "poo" and rotting organic matter then?

posted on Tue, 03/15/2011 - 9:44am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

I know it's kind of a glacier. (Those furrows in the pictures are the tracks of front-end loaders that pushed the snow around and compacted it.) But...could you just cover the whole thing with black tarps? Supposed to be a warm week -- might get some melting that way.

posted on Tue, 03/15/2011 - 12:40pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

I suppose it wouldn't keep heat in as well as tarps, but maybe it could be covered with ash, or something? That might lower its albedo quite a bit. Although ... I guess it's already pretty dirty and dark.

PS—Whenever I try to click on that first picture, my browser goes crazy.

posted on Tue, 03/15/2011 - 1:24pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Oh, yeah, that happened to me, too. I think I need to edit the caption. Thanks for the reminder.

posted on Tue, 03/15/2011 - 3:33pm
MarkS's picture
MarkS says:

What you need is hot water and a lot of hose.

Hook up a portable water heater of some sort with a strong water pump to a long section of hose. (Use a solar power generator to run the system to save on electricity?)

I suggest using a closed loop hose system rather than just pumping hot water onto the snow pile. Won't work quite as fast, but it's the heat you need to need to waste a ton of water to clear a parking lot.

Set the hose in a switchback pattern on top of the snow mound and let it run continuously. The hose should sink into the pile as the snow underneath it melts. Once the hose is under the snow the insulating properties of snow should hold the heat and continue the melting process even if direct contact with the hot hose is lost. Then all you gotta do is watch, wait, and adjust the hose to the next section when necessary.

Should be able to clear even that monster of a pile inside two months if you can run the water hot enough.

posted on Tue, 03/15/2011 - 5:09pm
Bryce's picture
Bryce says:

Make it rain.

Corral the melted snow into a pond using a few sand bags and pump water from the pond through the hoses.

Connect different hoses to sprinklers to simulate rain that will melt the snow much faster than warm air.

Keep adding sprinklers as the water flow from the melted snow accelerates.

posted on Thu, 03/17/2011 - 7:08pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

This is a really interesting idea. Bring in something like a pivot irrigator, and just make it rain over the whole pile.

posted on Fri, 03/18/2011 - 11:29am
Terry31415's picture
Terry31415 says:

I second JGordon and Liza--cover it with black stuff. I'm thinking of dry, black topsoil, but tarps would work better.

In particular, I was thinking of something along the lines of covering the snowpile with a few planks to walk on, and a seed/fertilizer spreader filled with black topsoil to cover it in black.

It would have been more effective to start this earlier in the winter. We have a driveway that routinely melts it's snow at temps below freezing--as long as we scrape off most of the snow and expose the black asphalt underneath it.

posted on Tue, 03/15/2011 - 9:48pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

thats cool

posted on Fri, 03/18/2011 - 10:38am
MarkS's picture
MarkS says:

Bryce has a really good idea there.

As long as the melt water pool temp stays around 50 degrees it should work well and is a lot less complicated than my idea.

The only questions I have is if there is enough of a gradient to the lot surface to be sure the water will flow a certain direction to be collected and can you get it to pool quick enough to keep up with the sprinklers needs?

posted on Sat, 03/19/2011 - 9:44am

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