The problem is not knowing how much snow is falling, and where. The solution will hopefully come from Cornell professor Max Zhang and his research team. They're developing a hyperlocal weather forecasting system.
"They work on a very lean budget, and have a limited number of staff members, and also have a very small number of plow trucks. The work is important, so winter storm preparation is sometimes life or death," said Zhang, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.
His team has members across the state specializing in meteorology, and computer science. It’s part of the Civic Innovation challenge, by the National Science Foundation. Fifty-two teams across the nation have four months to do community research. Then, they create a project to solve a problem related to natural disasters.
"So that we can predict the very granular road conditions beforehand. That information will feed into the local highway departments, their decision making system," said Zhang.
They anticipate this research could eventually turn into a software, not only helping highway departments, but commuters, and agriculture.
"Even our school districts, right? So how they open up the school, whether you're going to call for a snow day or just delay the opening for a few hours. So that's all dependent on how much we know on the road conditions," said Zhang.
They have $50,000 to fund stage one of the project. In May, they will submit their research to determine if they move on to stage two. If Zhang's team moves on to stage two, they will get another year to work on the project, and a million dollars in funding. If you have ideas about specific areas of your community that could benefit from this research, contact Max Zhang.