Saturday, January 22, 2011

Snow Removal Theory

Having dealt with snow in many parts of the nation over the years, I noticed that depending on the local attitude and regional preparedness, snow can be everything from someones worse nightmare to just another day on the planet.   Six inches of snow in Richmond, Virginia might cripple that town for a couple of days.  Here in Acton, it might be an inconvenience for a couple of hours. 

The amount of snow is but part of this regional situation.  In areas where measurable snow is rare, the roads get whacked by as little as a couple of inches.  The locals have no clue how to deal with it.  They drive in it like the roads are just wet and end up in the ditch, the curb, or into another car.  They usually do not have very many plows ready to take on significant snowfall and only the main drags get serious attention, leaving neighborhoods to their own devices.  A snow storm can create a very ugly place to live south of the Mason Dixon Line.

My first real memory of snow removal was maybe 50 years ago in Bethesda, Maryland.  My dad handed me a special kid's snow shovel and we went out and dug out the cars.  There have not been very many winters since I haven't at least picked up a snow shovel a few times.  Many winters it seemed I never put that snow shovel down.  Not for very long anyway. 

So, it is no wonder I have come up with my own take on snow removal.

Up here the roads are pretty much ready to drive whenever you want to head out, or when you can get out.  Snow removal budgets are huge here.  Lots of trucks and crews who do a damn fine job most days of keeping roads drivable.  Once a storm starts, the trucks are attacking it repeatedly until it stops.  Unless it is on a weekend.  Then they might only make a few passes, leaving the bulk of the cleanup for after the last flake has fallen.

Winter 2010-2011 has gotten off to an odd start.  I was wearing shorts and a tee shirt well into November.  I think we had one snow of consequence just before Christmas which salvaged the "White Christmas" everyone likes to see on postcards, gift cards, and outside on Christmas morning.  I was beginning to think all that work I did to my snow blower at the end of last season was wasted effort.  What was I thinking?  This is Maine.  The snow always comes.  Just be patient.

According to some real estate website that offers information on areas around the country for prospective emigres from away, Acton's average snowfall is 66" a year.  That's 31" over the national average.  As of today we have received in the last two weeks almost half our yearly average.  Counting the paltry 10" or so in December, we are at 40 plus inches for this winter.  We still have at least 2 & 1/2 months to go. 

All of this snow means that snow removal is a big part of our lives.  How big depends on how far we want to take it.  Personally, I have exhibited several different attitudes over the years.  From wilfully ignoring it to anal retentive clearing every flake from my drive.

Ignoring it does not work unless one is comfortable with not leaving the house for weeks at a time.  Anal retentive snow removal might be good for some folks who are wound tight to begin with, but I found I just could not keep up the intensity required to create and maintain the "perfect driveway".  There's a couple of old dudes who live next to each other on Rte 109 who engage in driveway battles every storm.  I think they both are out there as soon as the first inch falls, hoping to get a jump on the guy next door.  Every time I go by, their drives are clean right down to the pavement. 

So I have hit the happy medium.  I ignore it as long as I can, but when I do go after it, I hit it with a vengeance.  And I am not afraid to use hand weapons either.  I take it seriously once I get started and move it as far away as possible given the equipment I have to work with at the time.  Because I know that in another week, I am likely to face another foot of the stuff.

I never retreat, I just reload.

Uh,....... later I guess.  I have to go clean up what the town plow just put back in my driveway.  Damn, I just love Winter.


The Blog Fodder said...

My theory about snow was "the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away". then city council passed a bylaw that said you had to keep your walks shoveled or else! Darn.
They have had lots of snow and cold in both Saskatchewan and Central Siberia. I have relatives in both places. Khkasia wins with two months of -30 weather this winter. Ukraine has had a coastal winter this year, mostly 0C stuff and snow comes and goes.
66" is a lot of snow. You sure do need a snow blower for that.

David Barber said...

Good luck, Mike. We had our fair share over November and December but nothing like what you get. I bought a snow shovel the other day as we have been forecast more of the white stuff. (We'll probably not get any more now!)

Take care, my friend.

Kulkuri said...

Where my place is UP on the Tundra they get some snow every year, some years almost every month. The least snow in one year(Jul 1-Jun 30) was 145 inches, the most was over 350 somewhere in the neighborhood of 380 inches. Years past they were very good about snow removal, would start shortly after the storm started and continue until all the roads were cleared or the snowplow operator needed sleep and then would continue until done. Now due to budget cuts the roads get plowed much less, usually 2-3 times a week when it snows. The roads still get cleared, but it won't be done as quickly as it was before.

Next winter we'll be back UP on the Tundra and I'll have to deal with snow. I'm fixing up a plow truck, a '79 Jeep with a Western plow. I also have an older Toro snowblower that needs some work. It doesn't move very fast anymore, so I think something is worn in the drive, maybe a belt, maybe something else.

BBC said...

The single deepest snowfall overnight I've ever had to deal with was a four foot drop one night in Montana.

We just hung out in the house for a few days until they cleared the roads and then I found a man with a plow on his truck to plow out the circular driveway.

Snow happens, I just deal with it.

jadedj said...

At the beginning of the season I am on the edge of anal about it, but by the end of January (now) I just do enough to get out of the drive. I hate the shit.

muddleglum said...

Hey, great post and, yeah, I lived it--somewhat.

One correction, though. At least in the Houston, TX area, it isn't the coupla inches that are dangerous, but any trace that ends up slicking the roads. I learned to stay off the road then. Happily it was only a four mile bike ride and I could pull the thing off the road when the crazies went sliding by.

Tom Harper said...

That's very true about heavy snow areas being more ready and able to deal with huge snowfalls. The Pacific Northwest is almost like the deep south in that category. We get tons of rain here but not much snow (except in the mountains), and it only takes a couple of inches to bring everything to a grinding halt; especially in Seattle.

I'm from a snowier region originally (Pennsylvania, then Connecticut) but nothing like the heavy snows they talk about in northern New England and Upstate New York. I used to hear all these stories about places in that area getting two feet of snow overnight, and everyone just goes about their routine the next day like nothing happened.

susan said...

I grew up in southern Ontario and saw lots of snow. Happily for me it was my father and the local men who were always in charge of moving it from the long, shared driveway so everyone could get their cars out. Unhappily for them, it was a time before snow blowers.

Take care of yourself out there.

MRMacrum said...

Blog Fodder - I am not sure where this website got the 66" average from. Over the last ten years we have rec'd 831.5 inches - that averages out to 83 inches a year.

It doens't really matter anyway as long as my snow blower is working.

David Barber - Yeah watching the reports of the uncharacteristic heavy snows you had earlier and then looking outside onto bare ground here made me realize we will most likely never get a good handle on the weather.

Kulkiri - The Upper Penninsula is certainly an odd land. Always beautiful though, no matter what Ma Nature is doing.

BBC - Snow's more fun when I complain about it.

jadedj - Yeah that about covers my enthusiasm index as well. 'Bout Feb 1 I begin hoping the Sun will do my work for me. It never does, the lazy bastard.

muddleglum - Its always that initial slicking that catches the most folks off guard. Even up here.

Tom Harper - The problem with snow here is once it comes it doesn't melt until April.

susan - Yeah, I was 18 before I had the joy of using a snow blower instead of a shovel. Internal combustion engines do have their uses.

Kulkuri said...

Here's a way to remove snow that's easier than shoveling and doesn't use gas. It's a snow scoop by Silver Bear. They even do a model with wheels. Someone I know in W.VA. ordered one last year and was very happy with it. He has a bad back and the scoop allowed him to clear his driveway without killing his back.

MRMacrum said...

I own three snow scoops of varying sizes. I have worn out more than a few of them over the years. Now I keep them only as back up if the snow blower is down.

Contrary to what the ad claims, there is indeed sweating involved.