‘Snow dragon’ helps clear GR parking ramps

A snow melting machine called a snow dragon at a Grand Rapids parking ramp. (Jan. 28, 2014)
A snow melting machine called a snow dragon at a Grand Rapids parking ramp. (Jan. 28, 2014)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Rapids has its very own dragon. One that puffs out steam and consumes mountains of snow off of the top of parking ramps.

It’s aptly called the ‘snow dragon.’

The equipment, according to the city of Grand Rapids’ 2010 budget, cost $110,000. It’s purpose is to melt the huge piles of snow from the tops of city parking ramps.

A snow melting machine called a snow dragon at a Grand Rapids parking ramp. (Jan. 28, 2014)
(Jan. 28, 2014)

“By melting the snow instead of removing it by dumping it off the roofs and trucking it away, the snow will be removed quicker and at less cost using the snow dragon,” the budget stated.

The snow dragon also allegedly eliminates the need to hire contractors to remove the snow from the ramps according to the budget.

“This pile here, this pile here,” Dustin Ritsenhein from the city’s maintenance and parking services department showed 24 Hour News 8, pointing out huge mountains of snow on the roof of the Monroe Center parking ramp. “Those weren’t even there. We almost had this about cleared, but yeah, it just continued to build up, build up. It’s nice to have that machine there.”

The dragon releases water out of three large drains that  goes through the ramp’s drainage system. 24 Hour News 8 checked: It did not create a huge ice slick down the ramp.

The water produced by Grand Rapids' snow dragon did not ice over a parking ramp. (Jan. 28, 2013)
The water produced by Grand Rapids’ snow dragon did not ice over a parking ramp. (Jan. 28, 2013)

However, there was a slick spot near where the water came out of the device and a couple of spaces one floor below collected some ice.

24 Hour News 8 also asked why the dragon isn’t used everywhere around the city.

“It’d be nice. But you know, them things aren’t cheap, and it’s a big job just to get [the dragon] moved around and putting all the snow in it,” Ritzenhein replied.

The operator also said it’s important to keep in mind the dragon needs to have a good enough drainage system like in the parking ramp or else, especially in these temperatures, a lot of ice would form.

Read: Budget requesting snow dragon (pdf)

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