LIFE IN NEW JERSEY: OK. If I were a smart aleck (well yes, some of my friends have actually mentioned that to me before), then I would probably respond to the title of this post with something like ‘Here’s a tip…turn up the heat inside, put on a good movie and open a bottle of red with some good cheese. Blimey, what’s the big deal?’
Leaving sarcastic responses out of it for a minute, I want to talk more about what to do about snow from a practical point of view. After all, snow is definitely a part of winter life here in New Jersey. Sometimes it hardly snows and other times it buckets down. Although snow blizzards do occur, the bucketing down part is not too common. Even without any weird weather happenings, you are still likely to have to shovel off your driveway and clean the snow off your car at least a few times during winter, not to mention worry about whether you’ll fall over when you walk on the icy bits, even without the red wine.So for all you new-to-the-world-of-snow people, like myself when I first arrived here, there are some useful things about coping with snow I would like to share with you.
So this post should be thought of as “the dummies guide to handling snow for sun-addled Sydney siders”. Such a catchy name, yeah!
1. Get the basic equipment
The first thing you need to worry about is getting the right equipment. The basics you will need are:
- A snow shovel (normal shovels aren’t shaped right and don’t pick up enough snow)
- A snow brush/ice-scraper for the car
- A good pair of lined waterproof gloves (you’ll have bloody cold hands otherwise)
- Perhaps a pair of wellies or waterproof boots/shoes (because snow is wet and slushy to walk in)
- Salt pellets to use on your pavements and driveway (this prevents refreezing of wet slush into ice)
2. Don’t bother to shovel snow if there is only a light fall.
When there is only a light snow fall e.g. ½-1 inch, it often melts as soon as the sun gets on it, so you don’t need to do anything. Paths and sidewalks melt faster than the lawn and garden as they seem to heat up faster. If the paths are already salted, they melt even faster and dry out too. If however, your property and surrounds are going to be in the shade during the day, and it’s near zero degrees, you will probably need to shovel off the walkways and driveway before the snow ices up. You can do this by using a snow shovel. This is a very useful item to purchase before winter starts. Snow shovels are widely available in most hardware stores and large supermarkets.
3. Make the pathways on and around your property safe
You are obliged by law here, to make sure all the publicly used pathways on and around your residence are clear of snow, and salted to prevent ice forming. This is of course so people can walk safely along the sidewalk. Not everyone bothers with this but I’m the guilt laden type who would hate it if someone fell over and hurt themselves. Anyway, it’s kind of selfish not to do it.
4. Hire someone to get rid of your snow if you can’t clear it
If you can’t clear the snow from your paths yourself because you have a bad back or other reason, then you can pay people to come and shovel it for you by hand (lots of teenagers come around door-to-door here locally to ask if you would like their paid help). Alternatively, you can use a snow-blower to remove it. This very useful piece of equipment, works by scooping up snow then blowing it out to one side. There are different sizes for different depths of snow with the bigger ones costing about $500.
Many people who have large areas of driveway or paths pay a handyman to come along and remove snow for them from their entire property. They mostly use snow-blowers for walkways and smaller areas. For larger areas and long driveways, they will often use a snow-plough attached to the front of their truck. This is a very fast way of clearing the snow out. It seems like in just a few sweeps, the snow is piled to one side and your car is free to drive out like normal.
If you prefer using hired help, it is a good idea to check out prices early on, so you know what a reasonable price is for these jobs to be done. If you need snow removal in a hurry and have no arrangements made prior, it is easy to be a captive to high prices that some operators will charge.
5. Shovel a snow free path for your car to move in and out on the driveway
If the snow is heavier and will be sitting around all day, it’s a very good idea to shovel your driveway out (at least a snow free path for your car), because when you drive over it, you are compressing the snow and it will turn into hard, encrusted ice. Your driveway will then become a miniature ice-rink which is very slippery and not so nice to drive or walk on.
If you have a sloped driveway, it is particularly important to avoid compressing the snow, as then it becomes very dangerous driving up the slope or reversing out. One of our expat friends warned us about this early on when we arrived. He had a steep driveway and learned this lesson the hard way.
6. Park your car towards the bottom of your driveway
The shorter the path is for your car to get out the driveway, the less snow you will have to shovel out. This starts to become very important when there is a big snow fall, and there is a lot of snow to shovel. You will be grateful then, that the car is near the road, instead of at the top of your driveway.
7. Use a snow brush to clean snow off your car
Assuming your car will be covered in snow you can use the snow brush to sweep off your car and windows. That way you can see out the car when you drive. In New Jersey it is also against the law to drive with a large amount of snow on your car.
Do not use the scraper part of the brush on your car duco (the painted part), as it will scratch the paint. This scraper is used for scraping the frozen snow or ice off your windows and windscreen. Snow can often freeze or be frozen on the bottom layer, so a scraper is handy for this exercise, when the brush doesn’t clear it all off.
8. Leave your snow tools in easy-to-access places when it snows
After leaving our snow shovels in our garage during a snow blizzard, my husband K had to wade through thigh-high snow, to retrieve them to start shoveling out the driveway and paths. Next time, we left them near our front door, which was a lot more convenient.
It’s also a good idea to leave your snow brush in the car, especially if you are going to work and it snows while you are away from the car. Many people leave their windscreen wipers up in the air when parking their cars outside during a snowstorm. This is so they can brush the snow off their cars quickly without the wipers getting in the way.
9. Always salt the paths after you’ve shoveled the snow off
Melted snow can often refreeze and become what’s known as black ice. This is very hard, glassy and super slippery to walk on. Black ice is also a hazard and treacherous because you can’t always see that it’s ice. It often just looks like a wet patch on the ground which people walk on unwittingly. Many a time, I’ve slipped on this ice and it’s easy to fall over hard. To avoid this, it is best to sprinkle salt pellets (using gloves) freely across all walked on areas. You can easily purchase salt pellets at hardware stores or supermarkets during winter.
10. Don’t drive in heavy snow!
This may sound like the bleedin’ obvious but you would be surprised by how many people do silly things here on the roads. The roads are usually salted after it starts to snow but this can take a while and doesn’t remove the dangers of poor visibility and slipping on compressed snow on the roads.
OK, so there you have it. With these tips, you’ll at least have an idea of what to do when you get snowed on in your first winter here in New Jersey. I hope like me, you still find snow exciting and novel after years of it, despite the shoveling.
Do you have any extra tips to add about managing the practicalities of snow removal?