The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

December 12, 2013

Don't flake out | Advice to make snow removal bearable

JOHNSTOWN — Here comes Suzy Snowflake, and millions of her friends, if weather predictions for this weekend come true.

Which means that area residents will be pulling on their galoshes, mittens and scarves and heading outside to shovel winter’s wrath from their sidewalks and driveways.

But before plowing headlong into the task at hand, there are several precautions that shovelers should be aware of.

The American Heart Association says that the combination of colder temperatures and the physical exertion on the body caused by moving snow puts a strain on the heart. The extra workload may lead to the increased risk of heart attacks for some people. So the association has offered the following tips:

-- Take frequent breaks. Spread out the task over several hours.

-- Don’t eat a heavy meal prior to or immediately after shoveling. And stay away from alcohol before and after shoveling.

-- Use a smaller shovel or consider using a snowblower. It is easier on the body to lift smaller amounts of snow more times than trying to lift huge amounts at one time. Also, when possible, push the snow instead of lifting and throwing it.

-- Listen to your body. Don’t shovel to the point of exhaustion. If you become short of breath, take a break.

-- Learn the warning signs of a heart attack, such as chest discomfort in the center of the chest or an uncomfortable pressure or squeezing sensation; discomfort or pain in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach; shortness of breath without chest discomfort; or breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

-- Dress warmly, but don’t overdress. It is better to dress in layers, which can be shed if you become overheated. And don’t forget to wear gloves, a hat, warm socks and waterproof boots.

You’ll also want to be aware of your posture when moving snow. Always lift with your legs bent, as if you were about to sit, and always keep your back straight. This will help to prevent back strain. Use your shoulder and torso muscles as much as possible.

If possible, use the buddy system to remove snow. Enlist the help of a family member or neighbor to get the job done, and the chore will go much faster.

Possibly nothing raises your blood pressure faster than hearing a snowplow coming down the highway or street right after you’ve struggled for hours to clear a driveway or sidewalk.

Darby Sprincz, Johnstown’s public works director, offered a helpful tip to city residents that might prevent them from being dumped on by a plow truck. He suggested that residents create a berm of snow at the curb. That way, the resident is clearing the sidewalk (which is a requirement in many area municipalities) and, at the same time, building a barrier to prevent the snow from being redeposited on walkways.

Sprincz said some plows could be pushing upwards of 2 tons of snow, and the plows will empty themselves at the first available clear spot, regardless of whether it’s a driveway, sidewalk or parking lot.

Sprincz also warned city residents that shoveling, blowing or plowing snow onto a city street – or township, county or state highways – not only can create hazardous road conditions, it also can result in hefty fines for anyone caught doing so. Sprincz said the city could fine a person several hundred dollars if they’re caught committing such an act.

Snow is a way of life for residents of Greater Johnstown and surrounding areas. The best advice we can offer is grin and bear it. It will be spring before you know it.

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