Monday, January 19, 2015

Shovelling Snow off the Roof

 A couple of years ago I happened to be in Kansas City during (for them) a big snowstorm.  I  watched the onset of the storm in the comfort of a coffee shop and struck up a conversation with several locals.  When they learned I was from Upper Michigan one of them remarked that he had heard that in "some places they get so much snow that they have to shovel off their roofs" and asked me if it was true.  It was one of those "what's the weather like on the planet where you come from?" moments and made me realize that what we take for granted in the Copper Country would be considered otherworldly elsewhere.

Over the years I have come to appreciate the wisdom of the mining companies in building their company houses with steep pitched, simple roofs.  Unfortunately, I did not consider this when we built our own house with a moderately pitched roof and then added on the addition at right angles to ensure that snow would accumulate on the roof.  If I ever build another house is is going to have a steep, metal roof  that will not hold snow.
Our gingerbread roof is the product of a week of single digit temperatures, heavy snowfall and high winds.  Under those conditions the wind sculpts wide overhangs of dense snow, pretty on the outside...
...But rather claustrophobic from the inside.

The much preferred method of "shoveling " a roof is not shoveling at all, but using a lightweight snow scoop to slide the snow off in big chunks.

Bombs away!
A simple lesson in physics here.  Don't fight gravity, let it work for you.  I prefer to move my feet as little as possible.  It takes much less energy to push a light scoop uphill than to climb up there yourself and push the scoop down.
Voila!  A large chunk of snow breaks off and the scoop slides down the roof.  I used the lightweight plastic shovel a the top of the picture for some final scraping after I have removed most of the snow with the scoop.
The snow load in the scoop is considerable.  To move the same amount with a shovel requires many lifts and heaves - a back-killing, waste of time and energy.  I try to lift snow as little as possible and leave the lifting and heaving to the kids.  The older I get the more I look for ways to make work easier.
Mother Nature cooperated by giving us a January thaw.
Of course, once the snow is off the roof, there was still more work to be done.
A cheap plastic shovel is great for scraping loose snow, but not designed for prying up a layer of hardpack.  Cheap, strong, lightweight - pick any two.
Here's where athletic teenage sons come in handy.  In years gone by I could marshal the boys with shovels, scoops and the snowblower to tackle a job like this - or to shovel off the roof, for that matter.  Athletic sons are really the way to go when it comes to getting physical work done.  The only problem is just when you've fed and  raised them to their prime, they get up and leave home.
But as daunting as the task at hand may look, this is the time you want to go inside to change out of your sweaty clothes, have a bite to eat, a cup of coffee and a well-deserved nap on the couch.  No worries., the cavalry is on the way.
No, not these guys, although they would do in a pinch.  You can never own too many plow trucks in the Copper Country.

Tata, ta ta! The cavalry arrives!  I'm warm, dry, fed and well-rested and the snow doesn't stand a chance.
In a short while all the snow piles will be gone.

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