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In casey's fabulous answer here, he identifies several ways snow/ice can disrupt airport operations:

Continuous heavy snowfall can eventually close an airport if it becomes impossible to keep the runways clean, taxi routes become unusable due to drifting snow or snow transitions into sustained freezing rain (or runs out of de-ice fluid, yes IAH I'm looking at you). This is a transient problem and the closure would end as soon as conditions ease and the facilities can keep up with it.

Are there other ways that heavy snow (or ice) can disrupt airport operations? Could it perhaps interfere with lighting or navaids? Are there other airport functions that stop or slow in snow and ice?

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  • $\begingroup$ Let's not forget low visibility from a snowstorm, potentially reducing the number of possible arrivals/departures $\endgroup$ – Jon Story Dec 26 '15 at 1:31
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There are multiple ways by which snow can affect the operation in an airport.

  • Snow (and ice) in runway can affect takeoff by absorbing energy and can impact the aircraft after being kicked up by tires.

  • During landing, snow or slush in runway can reduce the deceleration rate by reducing friction coefficient, sometimes causing hydroplaning.

  • The runway length requirements in case of dry and wet conditions are different. This means that some aircraft cannot use the available runway in case of snow/wet conditions.

  • The requirements to clean the runways (and taxiways) continuously means that the flights will be delayed.

  • The snow may reduce the visibility of runway and terminal visual markers.

  • Ramp operations may be affected due to snow/ice.

  • Beyond a certain level of snow, the airports have to be closed as the aircraft cannot takeoff/land.

  • Also, it will be snowing in areas around the airport too. This means that there will be difficulty for people in reaching airport in the first place.

Also, see the FAA advisory circulars AC 150/5200-30C - Airport Winter Safety and Operations and AC 91-6A, Water, Slush, and Snow on the Runway

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Airport workers often struggle to get to work.

This is generally OK for the first 12 hours or so but soon, people need to stop working and rest, especially those with safety critical roles which have legally mandated maximum working and rest periods.

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There are various ways which heavy snow or ice can disrupt airport operations. Visibility would certainly be an issue, as call tower operators would have trouble visually seeing aircraft and would be unable to accurately judge any distance between aircraft. Additionally, ground crews and pilots would certainly have a tough time trying to navigate around the airport.

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Well, snow and ice would stick on aircraft, causing a dangerous situation because of unsteady airflow over lift surfaces. It would also decrease visibility, although it would not matter as much in an ILS except for seeing the runway at almost-touchdown altitudes. If the snow or ice is too much, it could interfere with the radar systems of the airport.

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