Should You Shovel While It’s Still Snowing?


It has begun to snow, and the meteorologist has predicted at least a foot of it. So what should you do—wait until the snow stops or start shoveling while it is snowing?

You should shovel while it’s still snowing if it is safe. If freezing rain or heavy winds are forecast, you should wait. Whether or not you should shovel in the snow depends on your health, how much snow is on the ground, and the weather.

Welcome to a huge snow shoveling debate—to shovel or to wait. This article will examine the pros and cons of both sides. Then you can decide whether you want to suit up and get your snow shovel or stay inside and watch the snowfall in the warmth of your home.   

4 Points To Consider About Snowfall and Shoveling

The debate regarding when to shovel snow centers on several factors. Most of them boil down to one thing—shoveling once saves time and is safer. The following sections analyze each of these factors in more detail.

You Only Have to Shovel Once

One of the strongest arguments for waiting for the snow to stop falling is you only need to shovel once. Shoveling twice seems like wasted time. It’s like running the dishwasher before dessert has been served.

However, it is easier to move four inches of snow than eight. Compacted snow is heavy—a shovelful of wet snow weighs approximately 16 pounds (7.26 kilograms). The longer you delay shoveling snow, the greater the likelihood you will be moving heavy compacted snow. The heavier the snow, the argument goes, the longer it will take you to shovel.

Verdict: This one seems like a toss-up. Yes, you could potentially save time shoveling once. But if you’re not in excellent physical condition, shoveling heavier snow will mean taking more frequent rest breaks.

Going Out Only Once Saves Time

Those who only go out when the snow has finished falling point out that it saves time, not only in how much time you spend outside but also in preparation for removing snow.

After all, you don’t just walk out of the door and begin shoveling. First, you need to get dressed. Then you need to grab your equipment, and this needs to be prepared to keep the snow from sticking to the shovel.

However, the other side will point out that shoveling a lot of snow can be exhausting. In that case, you will have to go back inside to take a break. According to this line of thinking, no time has been saved because you’re too exhausted to finish.

Verdict: A person’s health and physical condition play an important role. A healthy and fit individual would have a better opportunity to finish shoveling in one trip. Someone who doesn’t exercise regularly should take more breaks.

The Forecast Calls for Icy Rain or Windy Conditions

Waiting for the snow to stop is always better if the forecast calls for ice or wind. There are two reasons for this: one is safety, and the other is avoiding even more work. 

If snowfall is followed by freezing rain, the snow will help prevent ice from forming on your driveway and sidewalks. The ice will land on the snow instead of on the pavement. Not only is ice harder to remove, but it is also far more slippery than snow. You are far more likely to fall on half an inch of ice than six inches of snow, and falling on ice hurts more.

Additionally, it is not wise to shovel snow when strong winds are forecast. The winds will push snow back onto your driveway and sidewalk. If you dig in windy conditions, you might end up with most of the snow back on your driveway, so wait for the wind to die down before shoveling in windy circumstances. 

Verdict: The verdict is clear—it is not advisable to shovel if icy snow or wind are in the forecast.

Going Out Once Is Safer

Every time you go outside in the snow, you risk falling and hurting yourself. Therefore, those who want to wait until the snowstorm is finished argue that going out once is safer than going out twice.

However, there are several factors they are overlooking. Shoveling snow is hard work. It increases your heart rate and blood pressure. The cold air constricts the arteries and reduces the amount of blood that flows to the heart. In older people and those with heart disease, this can lead to heart attacks.

Researchers in Canada showed that the more snow that falls, the higher the incidence of a medical emergency. According to their data, 8 inches (20.32 cm) of snow led to a 16% increase in medical emergencies. Other data shows that shoveling is responsible for up to 100 deaths annually.

Verdict: Although anyone can get hurt shoveling snow, those 55 and over or with an increased chance of a heart attack should not wait until the snow has piled up. Either clear pathways to your car and driveway after an inch or two have fallen or hire someone else to do it.

How To Shovel Safely

Dress and posture are essential for shoveling safely. You can avoid injuring your back if you shovel smart and plan how to do so effectively.

Dress For Success

  • Dress in layers of lightweight clothing. That way, you will be warm but have more freedom of movement.  
  • Keep yourself warm with a thick winter hat and gloves. Although we don’t lose as much heat from our heads as we’ve been led to believe, around 10% of our body’s heat does escape through our heads. 
  • Wear thermal socks and sturdy boots. This will provide ankle support which is essential to avoid injury. 

Use Good Posture

  • Lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Try to avoid lifting snow when you can push it to the side. Instead, minimize how much you lift for your back’s sake.
  • Keep your legs hip-distance apart.
  • Shovel snow in layers to avoid lifting too much snow at once.
  • If you can switch hands every so often, you can reduce the muscle strain of repetitive motion.   
  • Take breaks. You will move more snow by taking breaks and resting.

Use Smart Techniques

Snow shoveling can cause injuries, but many are preventable if a shoveler uses smart techniques. For example, many homeowners begin shoveling snow down the driveway, from the garage to the street. 

However, this can be an inefficient way of clearing a driveway. As you shovel down the driveway, you gather more snow, which means you must work harder. 

Instead, begin shoveling from the middle of your driveway and push the snow to the sides. That way, you won’t be dealing with a pile-up of snow.

Bottom Line

The answer comes down to health and fitness. A young and healthy person can lift heavier, wet snow, so that individual can wait until the snow has fallen. Someone older and not as fit would be better off creating a pathway and shoveling in shifts instead of waiting. 

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