January 23, 2018

Surviving Snow & Ice: SNOW REMOVAL


Snow and ice spell trouble, maybe danger, probably extra work, and certainly limits to mobility. Hardest hit won’t be those who live in snow country and are used to it, but those who live in the marginal areas that rarely get snow or ice. Overcoming the inconveniences of snow requires preparation. This series of posts provides checklists to help you create and prepare for a better winter experience.

Snow Removal

The snow is falling (a lot this winter) and you are inside all cozy and relaxed because you prepared … no? In fact, you could last for days … no? Uh-oh. Could be a lot of shoveling, or maybe a desperate mission to get to the drug store. Well, here is a review of snow removal that might mean a little less work. If you missed last weeks post on being prepared, read it.

Personal Conditions & Medications That Pose Added Challenges

  • Some personal conditions make removing snow more challenging. These include poor vision, poor physical strength, diminished coordination, poor circulation and dependency on assistive technology.
  • Side effects of medications (drowsy, dizzy).
  • Work within your ability to do so safely.

Prevent Snow & Ice From Accumulating Where You Don’t Want It

Now isn’t that the whole idea? This is where universal design kicks in – you design a place to minimize the work it creates for you; a bad design can have you removing snow long after others went back inside.

  • Install overhangs or awnings in high-use areas such as an entrance area, a parking area (carport), and an exterior staircase or path.
  • Avoid placing an entrance under a sloped roof where snow “avalanches” down blocking the entrance or requiring extra shoveling.
  • Have entrances (and garages) face south when possible taking advantage of the sun’s warmth and natural snow melting ability.
  • Have a medium pitch to a roof; too flat and you’ll have a weight concern; too steep and snow will avalanche off.
  • Some roof designs are prone to ice build-up; ideally improve the venting of the roof and eliminate ice-build up, or, consider adding heated ice tape to help melt any forming ice.
  • Use heated mats and treads to keep walkways and stairs clear and dry.
  • Make sure gutters are clean and working (if you have them).

Shoveling Snow

  • Check with your town/municipal laws about sidewalk & parking lot snow clean-up; you might be responsible for snow removal, not the town.
  • Arrange for someone else to shovel you out if shoveling isn’t your idea of fun. Could be a caring neighbor or an ambitious teenager looking to make a few dollars. If you live near to someone who might need help, check in, see how they are and offer to help.
  • Dress appropriately and in layers that allow you to adjust as you warm up. Avoid materials that collect sweat and cool you as a result.
  • Don’t wait. Shovel early before the snow gets packed or wet and heavy. For heavy snowfalls, shovel in stages, not all at once. Keep the workload, and your back, light. Shoveling earlier in the day gives the sun a chance to do its part of the job. Finally, should an emergency happen, you’ll have an easier and safer time managing it if you don’t have to fight the snow.
  • Chose a shovel that suits you and the conditions. Big shovels hold more but are harder to lift. Shovels with a S-shaped handle are easier on the back. Other shovels are designed for pushing snow, not lifting it. New designs have wheels! Metal shovels last longer but can damage surfaces; plastic shovels break easier.
  • Watch where you shovel snow – don’t create extra work or another problem. If a huge snowfall is anticipated, you must throw the snow a bit further so as to leave room for the expected additional snowfall. Don’t throw snow against building foundations.
  • If natural light is low, have exterior lights that provide supplimental lighting.
  • Ice can be removed with an ice chipper or deicer products such as salt and magnesium chloride or calcium chloride (which are easier on the plants and work at colder temps); deicers will not work on porous surfaces such as gravel or dirt driveways.
  • If ice formation is a concern, say as cooler evening temps drop, put down some grit for traction: most common is sand but also possible are ash (from the fire place), alfalfa meal and cat litter (the brown, not the blue).

Plowing Snow & Snow Blowers

  • Arrange for the driveway to be plowed and to be done so snow isn’t plowed into places you’ll later have to shovel (such as against the garage door)
  • If you use a snow blower, prep it prior to the storm – make sure it’s working and has enough fuel.
  • Use markers to protect plants and landscaping from damage by the plow.


  • Don’t. Even if you are an awesome driver, it doesn’t mean that the other person is – they might hit you. Plan in advance and try to have the supplies you need at hand.
  • If you must drive prepare for the drive: 1) Have car tuned up and in good working order. 2) Have your emergency items on board (shovel, blanket, flashlight, snacks). 3) Travel on primary roads; avoid side routes that won’t be plowed until later. 4) Take the time to remove all snow off the car and to have good visibility. And, 5) Take it slow – four or all wheel drive doesn’t mean you brake or turn any better on black ice.
  • More about driving in next week’s post.

Hopefully with these few tips, snow removal becomes a little less burdensome.