By Marie Saavedra

EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) — It’s a magic trick at which even Houdini would marvel.

Stick snow in one end, and it comes out as water at the other. It’s a melting machine is hard at work in the northern suburbs. CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra reported from Evanston Thursday with how it works.

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CBS 2 called Skokie, Plainfield, Joliet, Wheaton, Mokena, Oak Park, and Lockport — and those places do not have an industrial snow melter. Evanston does, and it’s key to answering the question of, “Where do you put all this snow?”

Three days after a foot and a half of snow fell in Evanston, CBS 2 found the only place where some of it is actually melting. The man in the cab of the loader is Daniel Kwiecinski.

“Everybody calls me ‘Chisel,'” Kwiecinski said.

It’s an apt nickname, as he’s carving into a huge pile of snow. It’s been cleared from the downtown area and big parking lots, now stacking up at the service center.

“We used to put all the snow in the parking lot and stack it up and just let it melt,” said Kwiecinski. “And it gets really dirty.”

But for at least the last decade, Evanston’s had it: An industrial snow melter to clear tons of snow long before Mother Nature ever could. It starts with a two-ton load of snow dumped in a hot tub, of sorts.

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“There’s a 12 million BTU burner on the snow melter, and it flows in a tank of water and through a cylinder,” Kwiecinski said. “The water goes over the snow and melts the snow.”

It then catches any big debris before pouring the water into the city sewer. Turns out the city of Chicago is also using industrial snow melters anytime we get big accumulations.

But they are used only in two spots: at O’Hare and Midway international airports. The Department of Streets and Sanitation said at this point, it’s not using these melters to clean out any of the neighborhoods.

Instead, the department is relocating snow to lots, like one at Guaranteed Rate Field, where crews dropped off truck loads Thursday. The city said it is prioritizing clearing piles from outside schools, hospitals, fire and police stations.

But there’s a good chance those piles will still be there in a few weeks. By then, Evanston aims to have its most towering snow banks down the drain.

Just in the short time CBS 2 was with that crew, it melted 25 tons of snow. Running at full speed it can melt up to 60 tons an hour.

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And when we’ve had this much snow, those numbers can really make a difference.

Marie Saavedra