City Cast

How to Shovel Snow

Sidney Madden
Sidney Madden
Posted on December 22, 2022   |   Updated on July 7
My Block My Hood My City volunteers shovel snow to clear a sidewalk

My Block My Hood My City volunteers shovel sidewalks in Chatham in 2019. (John J. Kim / Tribune / Getty)

Chicagoland could see several inches of snow when Winter Storm Elliottis expected to hit the area today. Skokie resident John Cahill has braved many winter storms in Chicago and Boston and is sharing his snow removal tips.

If you shovel poorly, you had better not shovel at all.
Some folks skim the top and leave a layer of snow. The sun hits the snow, melts it a little, and it freezes overnight. Yep, you've created a skating rink.

Don't be someone who "waits for the storm to end.”

The longer the snow sits on the sidewalk, the more folks walk on it, compact it, and make it tough to shovel later.

  • When you shovel, it's best to gingerly remove the top layer, lifting with your legs and protecting your back.  
  • Once that is gone, ram the shovel at any ice that has formed at the pavement level. 
  • If that doesn't work, use the edge of your shovel, hopefully with a metal edge, and hopelessly whack that ice from the top. 
  • If all else fails, add salt.

If you have a snowblower, that's cool … but still shovel.
Unless that thing magically scrapes down to bare pavement, you're probably leaving a thin layer of snow that will melt in the sun and freeze.

Decide if you’re going to help neighbors.
There is no correct answer. If you do, grumble about the landlord under your breath — it's city law that building owners have to shovel. On the other hand, maybe your neighbor is jazzed to use their new snowblower, but you come along with your $4.99 rinky-dink shovel and clear the sidewalk for them. Are you a good neighbor? Is a hotdog a sandwich?

Need resources? Seek out warming centers and shoveling services.
Seeking blizzard tips? Here’s how to dress, drive, and help others.
Staying home until the storm passes? We have ideas for what to do.

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