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Sunday, January 10, 2016

We had a little snow storm...

It wasn't all that long ago that we experienced an epic wind-storm that knocked out power at our house for three days.  A few families went an entire week without electrical power, and a handful of people were without power clear through Thanksgiving.  If that were me, I wouldn't be feeling very thankful at all :)

Perhaps because that windy weather event decided to hit us right before the Thanksgiving holiday, the snow decided to move in right before the Christmas holiday.  At our house, over the course of four days, we got 10" of really wet snow, 8" of lighter snow, a day off, and then 4" of fine powdery snow.

It's really beautiful after a good snowfall.  Snow covers up all the world's ugly crap that you normally have to look at.

On the other hand, snow also makes a handful of normal activities much more difficult and challenging.  The biggest challenge is moving around, followed by protecting your home from damage, and of course frequent loss of electrical power.

Movement:
Walking through deep snow is difficult and exhausting.  Also, unless you have the specifically designed gear, the snow will work its way into your footwear and clothing and make things very unpleasant after a short time.  You should be prepared to remove the snow from any place that you intend to walk to frequently.

For snow removal, you have a couple of choices:  Shovel or snow-blower.  We don't yet own a snow-blower, for a couple of reasons.  We have WAY more driveway to clear than even a large walk-behind blower can clear in a reasonable amount of time.  Furthermore that driveway is gravel, with the occasional fist-sized rock, plus plenty of fallen sticks and pine cones.  I suspect none of those are good things to put through a snow blower.

Rather than blowing snow, I have a compact 4x4 tractor with a bucket loader that I push the snow around with.  Unfortunately the tractor is not large enough to clear the driveway in a reasonable amount of time either.  The bucket is just 4 ft across.  When the snow is deep, it just flows off either side of the bucket.  I end up taking half-bites, or I have to plow everything twice, to remove the berms that rolled off the side of the bucket.  The result is that I only clear 2 ft at a time, and in short passes...

I am still thinking of getting a snow-blower however.   The concrete slabs off the garage and shop are tough to clear.  Add to that the front walkway, shop pathway, and the deck, and you have quite a bit of square footage to hand shovel.  After repeating this process several times in just a few days (while also working 12 hour shifts), I'm now ready to give up the snow shovel.  I think I might buy a small electric snowblower for the deck, and a larger gas-powered machine for the walkways and concrete slabs.

I am learning to clear snow off the concrete slabs before driving on them.  When you drive on snow with high water content, it compresses the snow into ice, which is impossible to shovel off the concrete.  If ice forms on concrete, it attaches pretty tightly, and you have to wait for the concrete to get above freezing before the ice can be removed.  In the pic below, the concrete has thawed, so I've begun to clear the ice trail made by driving on the slab.

I will keep the tractor, because we occasionally get "plowed in".  That's the situation when the big County snowplow clears the roads, and leaves a huge sloppy berm across your driveway.  A walk-behind snowblower has a hard time dealing with this denser, compacted snow.  Here's a picture of what you have to deal with when that happens.  This has happened to us - with about the same size hump of snow.

The other thing you have to worry about is protecting your home (and RV if you own one) from damage.  An RV, which has a flat roof, accumulates snow rather than sluffing it off.  The snow will simply build up until the roof buckles.  You can always shovel the snow off your RV roof, hoping you don't damage a skylight or an antenna buried in the snow.  The best bet is to keep it indoors or under a lean-to.

People around here do it like this:

My shop is already built, so I can't set it up like this guy, Instead, my RV is inside the shop, taking a huge bite out of the middle of it.  I would like to build a free-standing structure behind the shop with the roof sloping away.  Something similar to what is below, but not attached, and with a much steeper sloped roof.  Preferably a pole building.
The last snowfall hazard you have to deal with is damage to your house, which is due to weight, but from two different mechanisms.  Overload of the roof, and ice dams in the rain gutters.  If your house doesn't have a metal roof, the snow will not slide off, and so you may need to clear it.  Obviously you don't want to go up on the roof when it's covered with snow, but they make a handy tool to clear it.  The side skids extend a little low so the cutting edge doesn't go underneath the roof shingles.  Some have little wheels on the front for the same reason

The other issue, and the one we are experiencing now, is ice dams in the rain gutters.  Your house doesn't trap heat perfectly, and so eventually some of the snow directly in contact with the roof melts.  The melt water (which is not very warm to begin with) flows down to the rain gutters, which do not have a heated part of the house under them, and the water freezes in the gutter.

Freezing is not just confined to the rain gutter - the ice can also form above the rain gutter.  If enough water freezes, the weight will become more than the eave can support, and the edge of the roof structure can break.  The whole blob of ice, rain gutter shingles and eaves can fall to the ground in a big frozen pile.  For this reason it helps to knock down icicles when they start to get big.

Technology can solve many problems, including this one :)  Heating cables are available for your roof overhang and rain gutter to prevent freezing and allow this water to drain out the down-spouts.

So yeah, heavy snowfall in a short time span can be a pain in the neck, and I need to spend a few more hours and a few more bucks to deal with it better.  On the other hand, it's really breathtaking when the storm is gone...  no complaints here!





That's Mount Spokane, just left of center.  Ski runs are visible on it.  It's quite pretty when night skiing is open, when we have a clear night.




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