I do like wintertime. I do, I do, I do like wintertime.
This self-pep talk comes after a second day of chipping ice caused by sleet and rain on top of 3-4-inches of snow. Now, I'm not really complaining about the snow. It prettys up the winter landscape. I'd rather have a smooth white blanket in the yard than three months of mud and debris. And, even the big 12-18-inch storms are no more than a morning's work if you have the right tools. Experienced Wisconsinites do have the tools.
Heavy wide-blade steel shovels are used for scraping and pushing snow to the side of the driveway or walkway (only renters, new homeowners or NFL offensive linemen try to toss snow with these shovels). Square, flat-blade aluminum shovels (much lighter) are designed for that turn and toss motion. Non-scratch non-metallic plastic shovels are used for decks and other scratch-able surfaces.
My prize snow-possession, for the heaviest loads (usually after a caravan of snowplows dump two lanes of packed snow back into my driveway) is the Yooper Scooper. This is a wide two-foot scoop bolted to a three-foot u-shaped handle that moves even the heaviest snow up and out without lifting. “Without lifting” is always key in snow removal. I saw this tool demonstrated one winter ski-weekend by friends in Houghton, MI, who are snow shovel professionals compared with us amateurs. Green Bay averages 45-50 inches of snow a year compared that to the Upper Peninsula’s season average of almost 190-inches. The UP’s record from the 1978-1979 winter season is 390-inches, more than 32-feet. They really, really like winter up there.
So, even though last week’s snow was the packy, snowman-making kind of snow, the total job (not counting back decks) took only 40-minutes for the two of us I did use the power snow blower for initial cleaning, but would rather not. Blowing the snow means you’ll have to go over your work again with the shovel to get down to pavement. The depth and moisture content of the snow determines the use of the blower, But snow, as I said, is not a problem. Ice is.
By mid-morning, air temperatures hovered around the freezing mark and turned snow to sleet and then to a driving rain. Because the ground is still quite frozen (a prior week of sub-zero nights will do that) and existing snowbanks from 30-inches of previous snowfalls are two-feet high, the rain and melting snow had no place to go other than draining back onto the sidewalk and down the driveway. When temperatures fell mid-afternoon, we had a problem.
I retrieved an ice-chipper, a long-handled tool with a three-inch sharpened wedge of steel on the working end, from the far corner of the potting shed and began to break up the ice that was forming under a cold wind. That and sprinkling snow-melt took another 90-minutes. Our house has less concrete than my previous other houses, but there is still a fair amount to shovel.
The next morning shoveled pavement was covered by ice anyway. School was cancelled because of ice (sidewalks were impassible). A week later, over three-quarters of the sidewalks in our neighborhood are still an impassible sheen of glare ice. I have the time (and the ice melt) to clear our share of sidewalk as do other retired and able neighbors. Working families don't have that time, so many sidewalks remain impassible with a 1/2 to 1-inch covering of ice.
Fortunately, the weather that caused the problems to begin with will have mercy on all of us by the end of the week. January thaw temperatures in the 30s and 40s will punch holes in the smooth surface of the ice and undermine it to crumbles of icy snow. We have the tools to handle it after that.