Wednesday 23 October 2019

Fresh tips for surviving the new hazards of snowmaggedon

Leon and John Kinsella, from Saggart on a quad and a motorbike in the snow in Rathcoole, Co. Dublin. Photo: Damien Eagers
Leon and John Kinsella, from Saggart on a quad and a motorbike in the snow in Rathcoole, Co. Dublin. Photo: Damien Eagers
Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

As a nation we can be delicate snowflakes when it comes to the white stuff, however that has all changed this week.

But while children around the country rejoice in their unexpected snow holiday, it has caused numerous headaches for motorists, homeowners and workers.

We have already been advised this week to "walk like a penguin" to avoid slips and falls on the snow and ice. But there are more tips required for surviving several days of snowmageddon.

So, you ignored all the advice and took your car out in the blizzard to panic-buy yet another loaf of bread. Now you are stuck in a 4ft snow drift. Using a shovel (which you cleverly stowed in your boot ahead of time), clear the snow from around the wheels, taking particular care to ensure the exhaust pipe is clear.

Put the floor mats from the car in front of and behind the wheels to aid traction. Put the car in the lowest gear possible and rock the car out by slowly reversing a few inches and then driving forward a few inches.

Outside of your car, a heavy accumulation of snow can cause a roof to collapse or, during the thaw, the snow can suddenly fall loose in great chunks. The National Safety Council in the US advises homeowners to look out for signs such as sagging or severe leaks. Use a brush to remove the snow - but be sure to have a "spotter" watching out for any dangers.

A handful of people die in the US each year while shovelling snow from their driveways - usually due to heart attacks. The advice is to only shovel soft, powdery snow and push it rather than lift it. Also, lift with your legs rather than your back. Of course, the big thaw is imminent so you can always leave it to Mother Nature or scatter table salt.

If you are foolish enough to attempt to walk on a frozen pond, more likely than not you will get a dunking. The advise is to stay calm, grab onto the edge of the ice and try to get as much of your body out of the water using your forearms and elbows to prop yourself up. Once out, roll your body across the ice to distribute your weight and avoid breaking the ice again.

With the thaw comes the added problems of burst pipes and blocked gutters and drains. Ted Laverty, CEO of, warns that blocked gutters and down-pipes can force melting snow water under roof tiles, dislodging them and damaging roofing membranes. He urges homeowners to clear gutters and pipes of debris - use a hairdryer to melt ice blocking down-pipes. If a pipe bursts, turn off the water supply to the house, puncture the plaster in any bulging ceilings and get a plumber as soon as possible.

But, overall, have fun in the snow while you can and make sure you stay safe.

Keep safe and warm, but if you are out in Storm Emma we'd love to see your photos and videos. Send by email to or Whatsapp to 0871847169

Irish Independent

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