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How are local airports taking on the snow?

Workers use heavy equipment to clear snow from the tarmac at Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

ARLINGTON, Va. — Massive plows, snow blowers and other unique pieces of equipment are ready to hit the runways and minimize the impact on flights over the next few days.

A blizzard is slated to hit the D.C. region over the next few days.

“Like everybody else, we’re busy watching the weather forecasts,” Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Chief Operating Officer Margaret McKeough tells WTOP.

“We’ll have conference calls at both airports with our airline partners, and we’ll take our lead from them in terms of whether they’re going to cancel flights or try to fly through the storm. But regardless, the airports will remain open, we will be here, and we will be moving snow to make sure we are back in business for all of our customers as soon as the storm moves out of the region.”

The Airports Authority does not use traditional road salt on runways because of the negative impacts it can have on important metal – like the body or parts of an airplane – but huge Zamboni-like plows that trail brushes behind them and massive snow blowers are ready to help dozens of airport staff keep the runways and taxiways clear. The airports also have de-icers ready.

These Airports Authority videos show some of the work done in past years at Dulles Airport.

While the airports are responsible for clearing the runways, the airlines generally decide whether flights will still take off or not.

“The airlines really each make their own decision as to whether or not they’re going to fly through the storm or preemptively cancel their flights and reschedule them,” McKeough says. “So it’s always best to talk to the airlines first, that’s who we’re talking to first.”

Airport staff clear the snow off the runways, and contractors clear other areas.

“Reagan’s a particular challenge because there’s no room to pile the snow. We actually have to haul it off or melt it,” McKeough says.

“At Dulles, we’ve got a much larger area – we’ve got 12,000 acres to actually clear – but we do have the benefit of some remote areas of the airport that we can pile that snow [in] until we can move it off after the storm subsides.”

BWI Marshall has made similar preparations for the storm.

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