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      Clear the runway!

      Keeping your driveway clear of snow during the current storm may seem like a chore. But imagine keeping an entire airport runway clear of all that snow.

      It takes a good, hearty crew to take on the U.P.'s massive snow piles and drifts that accumulate on the Sawyer International Airport's runways and parking lots. And the current crew that has been working on the asphalt, fits the bill.

      During a bad winter storm, like we're having right now, these snow plows could be out from 4:30 a.m. until 1 a.m. the next morning. The snow removal crew for the airport will plow and blow the snow for hours, often working overtime during an extreme storm or excessive snowfall.

      Director of Operations at Sawyer International Airport, Steve Schenden, said, "We pick up extra employees in the winter, just for plowing snow."

      There are usually five or six crew members during the morning shift, clearing the runways and parking lots so flights may occur as scheduled and so the terminal may remain open.

      The airport is also prepared if an equipment malfunction occurs.

      "We have extra equipment out here which is nice because in a storm like this, if things break, guys can come in and turn it off and let it thaw out and jump in another piece of equipment and get out there and keep working," Schenden said.

      And safety is the crew's number one priority. During snow removal, radios are used between crew members and airport tower members to relay information of where team members are working and when planes will come down the runway.

      "Everybody tries to stay as safe as we can," Schenden said.

      Salting the parking lots and sanding down the runways are done after the snow is cleared to make sure brakes can work properly on vehicles and airplanes.