Friday, April 07, 2006

Ottawa Answer to Snowstorm

When there's no snow on the ground is the best time to talk about the proper way to shovel snow.

Need to know: Shovel width matters, since the objective is to cut a path people can navigate safely. Public sidewalks are typically 58 inches wide (private walks, about 48 inches wide), so the ideal shovel is 18 to 20 inches wide -- and, of course, you'll need to make more than one pass.

The edge of the shovel should be sharp enough to loosen and remove from the sidewalk packed-down snow that has not yet turned into ice. Some shovels are covered with Teflon, so the snow slides off when you deposit it in a pile or reach the edge of the sidewalk. If that coating has worn off, spray the shovel surface with vegetable oil until you can replace the shovel.

Operating manual: Shovel snow while it's fresh; it's easier to handle than snow that has partly melted or become packed down. This means you should get to the job sooner rather than later, especially if the forecast is for below-freezing temperatures for several days after the storm. Push the snow forward, in small amounts at a time, instead of scooping and lifting it. Move the snow to the edge of the sidewalk and remove a few inches of it from any grass abutting the walk. This creates a small barrier between the snow and the sidewalk, and less melting water can travel back and freeze.

Don't forget to shovel around the mailbox and dig access to your trash cans. And try to coordinate your efforts with those of the municipal plows. If they plow after you shovel, you'll have to do the opening of your driveway all over again.

That extra edge: If you don't have one, buy an ice chopper so you can chip away at the stubborn stuff. Use the chopper to crack and loosen the ice, and then use the shovel to move it. If you can't budge the ice, sand can provide traction for foot traffic and car tires. Or you can use something to accelerate the melting process, preferably calcium chloride, which does less damage to grass, shrubbery and sidewalk surfaces than sodium chloride (rock salt) does. Spread ice melt on cleared areas that don't dry quickly, to prevent ice from forming on wet surfaces when temperatures drop after dark.

Good advice: Don't wait until the night before a storm is forecast to buy snow-removal equipment -- selection will be small and supplies lean. If your shovel is broken, buy a replacement now.

After the snow falls, check whether the storm drains near your house are clear; if they aren't, clear them or call your municipality. Sometimes, freeze-ups are followed by thaws that create floods. If the drains are clear, flooding will be minimized.


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