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UB Software Helps Highway Crews Deal with Snow Drifts

By Mark Scott

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-818376.mp3

Buffalo, NY – University at Buffalo engineers have developed computer software to help road crews better deal with blowing and drifting snow.

On Friday, the morning commute was snarled not necessarily by a lot of falling snow. The problem was the strong winds that caused blowing and drifting and reduced visibility. UB Civil Engineering Professor Stuart Chen says he's spent years studying ways of making travel safer, especially during Buffalo's harsh winters.

The challenge, says Chen, was coming up with ways to deal with drifting snow. So, he and his fellow civil engineers at U-B developed "Snowman." It's a user-friendly software package to help highway personnel find the precise areas where snow fences would be more effective at reducing snow drifts.

Before this, highway crews would use general observations to put snow fences where they thought they would do the most good. But with this software -- which includes data about snowfall rates and wind velocities combined with the principles of mechanics -- crews can now be precise without much trial and error.

Chen says the software is also useful to highway engineers who are designing new roadways. "Snowman" was commissioned by the State Transportation Department but will be made available for use nationwide.