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Residents work hard shoveling, snowplowing heavy snow

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Ted Sullivan
December 10, 2009
— Standing outside her house during Wednesday’ snowstorm, Nancy Sonka shoveled heaps of snow off her sidewalk, hurling it into a large pile.

“This is the heaviest snow I’ve ever shoveled, and the deepest,” the Jefferson Avenue resident said. “It absolutely is a winter wonderland, and I love being out in it.”


The heavy, sticky snow made shoveling difficult, bent trees to the point of snapping and caused some residents to wonder if they needed to worry about the weight on their roofs.


Shovelers and snowblowers worked hard all day Wednesday to clear their driveways and sidewalks. They said the wet and deep snow was problematic for snowblowers and heavy for lifting with shovels.


Gary Bellrichard Jr. snowblows for several area residents. He was clearing sidewalks Wednesday at Court and Sinclair streets.


He expected to be snowblowing all day. He said he could make a few hundred bucks after a strong snowstorm.


His snowblower, although strong, was struggling in 12- to 18-inch drifts.


“This machine can go through anything, but it’s fighting today,” Bellrichard said. “It’s just wet and heavy.”


His snowblower’s 24-inch clearing width was able to plow through the big, chunky drifts, but he couldn’t force the entire machine through such deep powder. Instead, he sliced off rows using half the blade.


“The machine won’t throw that much weight at one time,” Bellrichard said. “It’s too heavy.”


Abby Sullivan, shoveling along St. Lawrence Avenue, said she didn’t mind the work. She liked the exercise.


“It’s nice to be out in the snow and enjoying it,” she said. “Winter is my favorite season.”


Still, she could have done without the square blocks of snow a city snowplow pushed up to the end of her driveway.


“It is heavy, but it’s not as wet,” Sullivan said. “If the snow was lighter, it wouldn’t be so bad.”


Sonka and her husband, John Sonka, planned to finish shoveling before dark, when the temperature was predicted to fall below zero.


Despite the deep snow, the Sonkas refuse to buy a snowblower. They prefer to share the load shoveling. They want to be environmentally friendly and save gas.


“This is a good workout. It’s like cutting your own firewood,” Nancy said. “This warms you up and gets the job done.”


Trouble for trees

Mary Ann Buenzow spent a couple hours shaking snow off the trees in her yard Wednesday.


“The trees are hurting. This is bad,” said Buenzow, the DNR’s forester for Rock and Green counties.


Some shrubs had almost completely snapped off, Buenzow said. She intends to cut those off because they’ll grow back. But you can’t do that with trees.


The weaker-wooded trees, such as pines and Norway maples, seem to be in the worst shape, Buenzow said. Spruces can handle loads of snow, she said, and the harder-wooded trees, such as oaks or hickories, seem hardier under the heavy snow that has coated every branch across the region.


Buenzow recommends extreme caution while shaking trees and shrubs today, however. The winds may do some of that, she said, but the intense cold will turn that wet snow to ice, and you don’t want to be shaking rock-hard ice down onto yourself.


Leave the broken limbs on bigger trees to professionals, Buenzow advised. And stay away from power lines.


Buenzow said the situation is a good argument for proper pruning, which will produce trees better able to handle heavy snow. Winter is actually a good time to prune, she said, because tree pests and diseases are largely dormant.


If you want to try pruning on your own, Buenzow recommends “How to Prune Trees,” which can be found online at gazettextra.com/prunetrees.


Buenzow said she’s worried that wind and cold today will lead to more broken limbs—problems that not only damaged trees but blocked roads and downed power lines on Tuesday and Wednesday.


No roof worries

Jeff Hazekamp, an architect with Angus Young Associates, Janesville, said local residents don’t need to worry yet about the amount of snow on their roofs.


“The roofs in this area should all be designed for 30 pounds per square foot of snow load,’’ Hazekamp said.


“I doubt very much that we’re having that much snow yet with this being the first major snow,’’ he said.


Although Hazekamp said it’s not a bad idea to clear your roof of snow, he isn’t suggesting anybody try.


“It’s almost as dangerous to get up there and clear it off,” he said.


And whatever you do, “don’t get on top of a roof when it’s already close to its maximum weight load. Then you’re just adding more load to the roof,” he said.


For snow removal, use a roof rake, a low-profile tool that looks like a wide hoe. Then while standing on a ladder rake the snow off the side of the roof.


“Then you go up higher and move it (the snow) off,’’ he said.


“Again,” Hazekamp, stressed, “I always am very cautious.’’


Folks with steep-pitched roofs most likely don’t have anything to worry about, he said.


“It’s folks with flatter roofs, like those on ranch-style homes, who might have cause for a little bit more concern,’’ Hazekamp said.



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