Tips for Snow and Ice Removal
A fresh blanket of snow is a pretty sight. Maybe just for a few minutes, in a photograph, if you are a kid and you’re getting a snow-day. But if you are a homeowner, removing this blanket is no cozy chore.
Everyone knows about snow shovels, of course, but an alternative worth considering if you live in a heavy snow area is a snow blower. There are three basic types, with differing uses and capacities.
Single-stage snow blowers are good for most urban and suburban uses. They are lightweight and maneuverable; have a rubber edge auger that gets very close to the pavement; handle wet, heavy snow very well. But they will not handle the hard, icy accumulation left behind at the end of your driveway by the snowplow, and are not suitable for gravel.
A two-stage snow blower is good for larger driveways or drifting snow. It has an auger that breaks up the snow and an impeller that throws it. Its skids adjust the height and therefore are good for gravel. Most are self-propelled.
If you have a lawn tractor, it may have a snow blower attachment. Check with the manufacturer.
Often, removing the snow is just the first step in the process of making your driveways and walkways snow and ice-free. Dealing with the ice left behind is the next challenge. Ice does not just freeze on the pavement, it freezes to the pavement. Breaking that bond, or keeping it from forming in the first place, is the task of chemical de-icers or anti-icers.
A de-icer is a chemical agent that is spread on snow or ice. It does not melt all the snow; it seeps through to the surface of the pavement and melts the ice there, breaking the bond and making it easier to remove the snow.
The anti-icer is a chemical agent that is applied before the snowfall begins. It prevents the bonding, thereby facilitating the removal of snow down to the surface of the pavement.
There are many chemicals and chemical blends available to use as de-icers and anti-icers. While the chemistry is simple, the choice of which to use is not. Many factors must be considered and much of the information is confusing or even conflicting.
For many years, the most common de-icer has been rock salt. The indirect damage and environmental concerns were offset by its cost-effectiveness. Today, more environmentally friendly and considerably more effective chemicals are available.
Any de-icing chemical has the potential to harm the environment if misused. Some will chemically attack concrete. All must be used strictly according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Over application of any can damage vegetation; even those products claiming to be made from fertilizing ingredients can cause harm.
If you apply the chemicals as precipitation begins, their effectiveness is increased and the amount needed is diminished.
If snow falls on warm surface, it melts. Problem solved. So the question is how do you warm the surface? There are three basic choices electric, hydronic and infrared.
Electric snow-melting systems used buried cables to heat surfaces such as sidewalks and driveways. They must be laid before concrete is poured and could require upgrading the electric service panel but can conform to any shape. Lower installation and maintenance costs may be offset by higher operating costs.
Electric heat-conducting rubber mats are a less expensive method and need no modifications to melt snow. These easy-to-install rubber mats provide many years of use.
Hydronic systems use flexible pipes buried under concrete to circulate heated fluid that warms the surface. They too must be laid before concrete is poured. It is possible to tie them into your existing heating system so that higher installation and maintenance costs could be offset by lower operating costs.
Infrared systems use quartz lamps on poles targeted to warm up desired surfaces. These systems are good for spot applications or remote walkways and require little time for warm-up. They are more easily installed and good for retrofitting, but they consume more energy making them more expensive per square foot to operate when compared to the other systems.
Severe Winter Weather: Preparing for the Storm
Determine your severe weather insurance eligibility now. Find out more now by contacting your insurance agent.
Or call the Insurance Information Institute at (800) 331-9146.
Call the National Insurance Consumer Helpline at (800) 942-4242.
Learn how your town handles emergencies by contacting your local Emergency Management Agency (EMA).
Pay attention to local weather reports. Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio and sign up for the Weather Channel’s alerts for your mobile phone and email.
Develop a Family Preparedness Plan that includes the following: Decide where to go if at home, school, work, outdoors, or in a car when a winter storm warning is issued. Update these plans every school year, and as places of employment and residence change.
Designate a friend or relative outside your town as your contact in the event you are separated from family members during a severe winter storm.
Agree upon a place where family members can meet if separated.
Your Family Emergency Supplies Kit. These contents can be assembled over a five-month period on a weekly basis, and all perishable items should be changed or replaced every six months.
Prepare Your Home
Make your home safe for the winter with insulation, weather stripping, and storm windows.
Set up emergency heating equipment, such as a fireplace with wood or coal or a camp stove with fuel.
Be sure you know the proper usage and provide proper ventilation for space heaters. Keep space heaters at least three feet away from furnishings, drapes, and all flammable objects. Turn them off when you leave a room.
NEVER drape wet clothes, gloves, hats or socks over a space heater to dry.
Insulate pipes with layers of insulation or newspaper wrapped with plastic. Let faucets drip and learn how to shut off water valves.
Driving in Snow and Ice
The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you can avoid it.
Don’t go out until the snow plows and sanding trucks have had a chance to do their work, and allow yourself extra time to reach your destination.
If you must drive in snowy conditions, make sure your car is prepared (TIPS), and that you know how to handle road conditions.
It is helpful to practice winter driving techniques in a snowy, open parking lot, so you are familiar with how your car handles. Consult your owner’s manual for tips specific to your vehicle.
Driving safely on icy roads
- Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
- Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.
- Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.
- Keep your lights and windshield clean.
- Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
- Don’t use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
- Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.
- Don’t pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you are likely to find the road in front of them worse that the road behind.
- Don’t assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.
If your rear wheels skid…
- Take your foot off the accelerator.
- Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they are sliding right, steer right.
- If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as your recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.
- If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.
- If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse – this is normal.
If your front wheels skid…
- Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don’t try to steer immediately.
- As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in “drive” or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.
If you get stuck…
- Do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper.
- Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.
- Use a light touch on the gas, to ease your car out.
- Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car.
- Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels, to help get traction.
- Try rocking the vehicle. (Check your owner’s manual first – it can damage the transmission on some vehicles.) Shift from forward to reverse, and back again. Each time you are in gear, give a light touch on the gas until the vehicle gets going.
Severe Winter Weather: Precipitation
The type of precipitation that falls with a winter storm often depends upon the storm’s path.
Since cold air is usually found on the north side of a storm and milder air on the south side, wintry precipitation generally falls in areas north of the track of the storm’s center.
Freezing rain is caused by rain droplets that freeze on contact with the ground or objects near the ground, leaving a frozen glaze. The temperature of the ground must be below freezing, and the rain droplets must exist in a liquid state at temperature below freezing for freezing rain to occur.
Freezing rain can glaze roadways with ice causing extremely hazardous driving conditions.
Bridges and overpasses typically freeze more quickly than other surfaces and are particularly dangerous.
Sleet falls to earth as ice pellets. These ice pellets are formed as snowflakes melt into raindrops as they pass through a thin layer of above-freezing air. The rain drops then refreeze into particles of ice as they pass through sub-freezing layer of air near the ground.
Snow is frozen precipitation in the form of six-sided crystals. Snow is produced when water vapor condenses onto airborne particles and forms into crystals, which remain frozen as they grow and fall. When temperatures remain below freezing from the cloud all the way to the ground, precipitation reaches the ground in the form of snow.
Blowing snow can be snow that has already fallen and is blown from the ground by the wind, or snow that is blown as it falls.
Blizzards occur when blowing snow and/or falling snow reduces visibility to less than a quarter mile and combines and sustained winds of 35 miles per hour or greater for at least three hours.
Winter Storm Warning Guide
Winter Watches and Warnings — Winter storm watches, warnings, and advisories are issued by local National Weather Service Forecast offices.
Winter weather advisory — When a significant winter storm or hazardous winter weather is occurring, imminent, and is an inconvenience.
Winter storm watch — Significant winter weather (i.e., heavy snow, heavy sleet, significant freezing rain, or a combination of events) is expected, but not imminent, for the watch area; provides 12 to 36 hours notice of the possibility of severe winter weather.
Winter storm warning — A significant winter storm or hazardous winter weather is occurring, imminent, or likely, and is a threat to life and property.
Blizzard warning — Winds that are at least 35 mph or greater, blowing snow that will frequently reduce visibility to 1/4 mile or less for at least three hours, and dangerous wind chills are expected in the warning area.
Wind chill index — The calculation of temperature that takes into consideration the effects of wind and temperature on the human body. This is not the actual air temperature, but what it feels like to the average person. This wind chill chart shows the difference between actual air temperature and perceived temperature, and the amount of time until frostbite occurs.