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In N. Hempstead, getting ahead of the snow

Scott Cantalupo, of the North Hempstead Highway Department,

Scott Cantalupo, of the North Hempstead Highway Department, lays down a liquid salt mix on roadways to reduce snow accumulations and make plowing easier. (Jan. 7, 2010) Credit: T.C. McCarthy

North Hempstead plow driver Scott Cantalupo was prepping roads at 6 a.m. with a salt mix ahead of the snow blast that’s expected to snarl the evening commute.

Cantalupo, who’s been on the job for four years, says new technology, like liquid salt brine mix and GPS tracking devices, has made it easier to clear the roads.

The salt mix sticks to the road and melts snow on contact. Applying it in advance reduces accumulation and makes removal easier on plows.

Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman said Hempstead got the idea to buy the salt briner systems from places in Canada.

The GPS systems leave a trail so supervisors in the yard can track where the truck has covered. If a driver misses a spot a supervisor is able to remind the driver to double back.

Cantalupo said that even with all the new technology, there are many obstacles for workers to contend with.

“When you’re plowing, as soon as you get the road open people who are trying to get to work are shoveling out their walkways or their driveways,” Cantalupo said. “And once you start putting it back in they start getting mad. I’ve had people yell at me, throw shovels at me.”

Cantalupo said he is careful to avoid blocking driveways or street parking spots, and if a road is filled with cars -- making it impossible to plow safely -- he’ll contact the Highway Department to come up with another strategy. Other times, though, Cantalupo has no choice.

“We gotta do what we gotta do,” Cantalupo said. “The roads need to be clear for emergency vehicles.”

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