Snow removal is the job of removing snow after a snowfall to make travel easier and safer. This is done by both individual households and by governments and institutions.
In countries with light snow, brooms can be used to brush off snow from walks and other surfaces. In colder regions with more precipitation, the main tools of the private snow clearer are the snow shovel, a large lightweight shovel used to push snow and lift it, and the snow scoop, a large and deep hopper-like implement fitted with a wide handle and designed to scoop up a load of snow and slide it on any slippery surface to another location without lifting. Shovelling entails a considerable amount of work and can be a strain on the back and the heart. Each year many senior citizens and middle aged persons die from heart attacks while shovelling snow. Those unwilling or unable to labour, especially those with large driveways like Angel Fire home owners or other substantial surfaces may use a snow blower. Others may hire Angel Fire Snow Pushers with a plow bearing truck or a shovel. After a large snowfall businessmen with plow trucks often drive through cities offering to plow for money. A recent technological advance is the snowmelt system that heats the pavement from below and melts snow and ice after a period of time. Such systems are expensive to install and operate and they are not cost effective in areas with very low winter temperatures and large snowfalls
Dealing with ice is more difficult. Snow blowers are rarely effective. Picks are sometimes used, but a solid spade can break through most ice. There is always the risk of damaging the pavement with these instruments. Icy areas can be covered with salt or some other substance, bags of which are widely available.
Early Attempts at Snow Control and Removal
Early attempts at snow control simply involved citizens going into the streets to level the drifts for sleigh traffic. Ordinances in many cities required homeowners to clear their sidewalks of snow, but snow removal was not yet practiced on a citywide basis. In order for residents to travel by carriage, or for merchants to receive goods (and customers), they were responsible for clearing their own streets. Snow shovelers were frequently hire to do this for them. As a result, wintertime travel in the early 1800s was still mostly by foot.
As the 1800s progressed, new buildings and new technologies were put to the test by severe winter storms. Heavy, wet snow collapsed roofs and suspension bridges. Gale-force winds mangled telegraph and electrical lines and downed poles, increasing the threat of electrocution and electrically-sparked fires. Cities like Milwaukee, Chicago and New York responded to these new problems, enacting new codes to ensure that buildings could withstand the combined forces of snow and wind. Public officials and residents alike called for putting existing and future telegraph wires underground to avoid further safety hazards.
Enterprising inventors were issued the first patents for snow plows in the 1840s, but several years passed before the plow designs were put to use. One of the first mentions of snow plow use comes from Milwaukee in 1862. The plow was attached to a cart pulled by a team of horses through the snow-clogged streets. Over the next several years, horse-drawn plows gained popularity and came into use in many other Northeastern cities. Intercity steam trains, having made their appearance several years earlier, now puffed and whistled their way through heavy drifts with giant plows attached to their front ends. Salt was used in a few cities, but was strongly protested because it ruined the streets for sleighing and damaged the shoes and clothing of pedestrians. However, the invention of the snow plow initiated widespread snow removal efforts in cities and also created a basis for municipal responsibility in snow removal.
Plows were a boon to city dwellers, enabling winter transportation to recover more rapidly from storms than in previous years. However, this solution was accompanied by a new round of problems, some of which remain with us today. Plowing cleared the main streets for traffic, but effectively blocked the side roads and sidewalks with huge, uneven mounds of compacted snow. Businessmen and townsfolk initially hailed the success of the plow, but later complained and even brought lawsuits against the plowing companies. Merchants claimed that their storefronts were completely blocked with mounds of plowed snow, making them inaccessible to their customers, and pedestrians bemoaned trying to negotiate the huge mounds which often obstructed the sidewalks. Sleigh drivers also found fault with the plowing system because of the ruts and uneven surfaces it created.
New York and other cities responded in several ways. They hired horse-drawn carts and shovelers to work in conjunction with the plows, hauling away the plowed snow and dumping it into rivers. This not only cleared the mounds of snow, but provided thousands of temporary jobs throughout the winter season. In an effort to curtail the use of salt, which many still protested, streets and icy bridges were coated with sand instead. To appease all sides, New York in the 1880s built elevated steam railways along the major routes of the city, high enough that they would not be affected by the drifts. Still in operation today, these elevated tracks proved very successful, and carried travelers through all but a few of the most severe storms. Prior to the invention of the subway, the elevated trains were often the only transport service available in storms that halted all ground travel.