Keep your home and body safe when clearing the snow

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published December 2, 2015

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METRO DETROIT — The winter blast has already arrived in metro Detroit, one month before the actual season commences, and where there’s snow, there’s an individual trying to do away with the mess.

Many experts seem to agree on one thing: As long as you rid your property of snow, it doesn’t really matter how you do it.

Jeremy Troke, general manager of Menards in Warren, said that picking out a shovel or a snowblower is a matter of personal preference. Everyone has their own favorite methods and products, he said, and it varies based on the individual.

Some prefer the more ergonomic shovel design, complete with the curved handle. Others like the old-school approach of a straight, metal shovel that can lift what feels like a ton of snow. Some like to push snow and take their time; others want to lift and finish the job in a hurry.

Richard Kaczynski, co-owner of Warren-based Master Edge Landscaping, has a preference: He doesn’t care for curved handles on shovels. He said they are awkward in design and seem to shift left and right.

Also, he said people should shell out the cash the first time around to buy a nicer shovel that stands the test of time. “If you hit that ice patch (with cheap shovels), they can crack if it’s too cold.”

Rob Steusloff, manager of Ace Hardware in Macomb Township, said personal preference should combine with a proactive approach — he noted that many of his customers prefer 18-inch plastic shovels because the weight is not overwhelming.

“It all varies on the type of snow we get for what kind of shovel you use,” Steusloff said. “You want to go ergonomic for light snow. Price really isn’t a huge factor; you’ve got to be comfortable. It’s got to fit the job.”

Ace Hardware sells a Craftsman line of snowblowers that present a myriad of different options: single-stage or two-stage, of which the single-stage is the traditional style that ejects snow through one chute; gas or electric; and fancier units that can complete commercial-type jobs.

Kaczynski said electric-start snowblowers start up “every time and actually have a feature where they pull you along where you don’t have to push. You just walk behind it and it’s less effort.”

Troke reiterated the personal preference of the selection process, matching up the right product with the right guest. If a homeowner is only cleaning up a small driveway and sidewalks, a smaller, cheaper unit is more than adequate.

But on top of shoveling and snowblowing, other items can be of great use, including calcium chloride, heat wraps for gutters, concrete-safe salt and de-icing equipment.

“We try to make sure everyone is set up with everything to complete their project,” Troke said. “When people come in, we want to make sure they get everything at once.

“It’s everybody from both extremes. Some people buy snowblowers early — and we were selling snowblowers on days going up to 70 degrees — and we sell them all throughout the winter.”

All three men in the industry couldn’t help but chuckle when asked whether individuals prepare themselves for the first big storm, or whether they scramble after the fact.

Steusloff said Ace Hardware has run out of items the past couple of years due to customers waiting too long, and Kaczynski agreed.

“Some people like to be prepared, but when it snows, everyone goes crazy and you can’t find shovels,” Kaczynski said. “It’s usually the first big snowfall when things go crazy.”

Aside from being prepared in a physical sense, doctors urge individuals to not exceed their own boundaries when it comes to pain and tolerance.

Dr. Anthony Colucci, medical director of emergency services at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital, said that people need to determine on their own what their bodies can take.

If an older relative feels that he must do the snow removal, Colucci said, then make sure he’s well-dressed and well-covered for the weather. If he does go out, set a 15-minute time that allows him to warm up indoors.

Cold weather exposure affects the internal stress on organs, notably the heart. While hypothermia and frostbite seem to dominate the winter health conversation, Colucci said coronary syndrome, which occurs when there is some blockage of blood flow to the heart — brought out by stresses that cause heart muscles to cramp and ache — is most dangerous and requires immediate medical attention because of its severity.

Colucci described frostbite.

“Frostbite is painful for all the digits — the toes and the fingers — and people will feel pain and cold at the touch. It’s an indication to stop doing what they’re doing and get out of the cold.

“Pain is a big indicator that you need to address something.”

Macomb County senior citizens ages 60 and older who are unable to clear their snow may call the Macomb County Community Services Agency at (586) 469-5228 to request snow removal service. They must meet eligibility guidelines.

Oakland County senior citizens ages 60 and older who cannot clear their snow may call the Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency at (248) 209-2600 and ask for help from its snow removal program.