Clearing the snow is good for you

27th November, 2014

Until last week the American city of Buffalo, in New York state, was known to many around the world as the home of Bruce Nolan - the down on his luck TV reporter portrayed by Jim Carrey in the 2003 film ‘Bruce Almighty’. That was until Mother Nature thrust it into the global spotlight by burying large areas of the city under as much as 8ft of snow, with flurries enhanced by a phenomenon known as the ‘lake effect’.

Lake effect snow is commonly the result of cold winds moving across large expanses of warm open water, such as lakes. As it does the water vapour freezes and is deposited on shores downwind in the form of snow. In the case of Buffalo, record low temperatures in the lower atmosphere on Tuesday combined with warmer than average water in Lake Erie to create a highly unstable atmosphere in which thundersnow flourished and levels of snowfall increased significantly.

Snow Clearance

As residents of Buffalo attempted to deal with the deluge of snow on their homes and businesses it was reported by the BBC that two people sadly died from heart attacks whilst shovelling snow. The American Heart Association (AHA) points out that a combination of colder temperatures and increased physical activity can take their toll on those in poor physical condition, who suffer from heart disease, or who have a personal history of stroke. This is because:

  • Clearing snow raises your blood pressure and heart rate more than many other forms of exercise.
  • The cold air constricts blood vessels.
  • Cardiac risks are higher in the early morning.
  • For sedentary over-55's snow clearance can often be a rare form of exercise.

Safe Practices

The AHA suggests there are a number of simple things that people can do to avoid putting strain on their hearts whilst clearing snow from their homes and businesses:

  • Take regular breaks: Be sure to take frequent rest breaks whilst shovelling to avoid putting unnecessary strain on your heart and consider how your body feels during those breaks before continuing.
  • Avoid heavy meals: Do not eat a large meal prior to or immediately after shovelling snow, as this can put an extra strain on your heart.
  • Use a small shovel: You may be tempted to use the biggest shovel you can find in order to get the job done as quickly as possible, but lifting heavy loads can raise blood pressure. It is far better to lift small amounts more regularly than attempting to carry a few huge shovels of snow.
  • Avoid alcohol: Drinking alcohol either before or directly after shovelling snow can increase an individual's sensation to warmth and as a result may cause them to underestimate the effect that the cold weather is having on their body.
  • Dress appropriately: Be sure to wear several layers of warm clothing in order to insulate your body against the cold weather. It is also recommended that you wear a hat, given that the majority of your body heat will be lost through your head.

Blame Culture

Home and businesses owners should not be afraid of taking measures to clear snow and ice from around their property. It is falsely believed by many that they could be prosecuted or sued should an accident occur on an area of land that they have attempted to clear of snow and ice - something that is simply not true. The government has stressed that where sensible and careful measures have been used to clear snow and ice there is very little chance of you being sued. They therefore encourage people not to be afraid of clearing snow from around their property and to assist elderly and vulnerable neighbours this winter.

With winter fast approaching it is not too late to put a plan in place to protect your business from the effects of snow and ice this year. If you would like more information about our gritting and snow clearance services, do not hesitate to get in touch.

Snow Clearing

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