Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Taking snow removal to the second level in Minnesota March 1, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Randy blows snow off our driveway following a February 2014 storm. This winter has been similar in snow and cold to that of four years ago. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo February 2014.


IF RESIDENTIAL SNOW REMOVAL in Minnesota involved simply clearing driveways and sidewalks, our work would be easier.


In this image, you can see the depth of snow on the roof.


But when snow accumulates and no January thaw arrives to reduce the snow pack, we start thinking about problems like too much snow on roofs and those damaging ice dams.



Sunday afternoon, after our most recent 4-inch snowfall the day prior, Randy pulled out the ladder and climbed to the flatter section of our house roof. He had about 18 inches of accumulated snow to scoop and toss from roof to ground. After awhile, he was working up a sweat in the bright sunshine.



Just inside the kitchen, I watched him labor. I’ll shovel snow, but only if it’s on the ground.



My job was to monitor my husband, to see that he stayed safe and didn’t overdo the shoveling. Now that we’re in our sixties, I tend to think more about how shoveling can cause heart attacks and back issues. And then there is that slipping and falling off the roof factor to consider. Randy seems mostly to ignore my concerns. I wish he wouldn’t.


Randy guides our ancient snowblower along the driveway following a late January snowfall of about 15 inches. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo January 2018.


Already that day he’d fired up the snowblower to clear snow from our sidewalk and that of three neighbors and also blew snow from our drive and a neighbor’s. I shoveled steps and walks and followed with clean-up. Our snowblower is bulky and heavy and so aged it should probably be in a museum. Has any Minnesota museum ever done an exhibit on how Minnesotans deal with snow? That could be interesting, tracing the history of how that process has evolved. There’s the fashion aspect, the equipment facet, the weather factor…



With the sun shining and temps rising into the balmy forty-ish range this week, all of Randy’s rooftop shoveling paid off with shingles now visible and ice dams melting. We’re good until more snow stacks and temps plunge. Next week.

TELL ME: If you live in a snowy state like Minnesota, how do you handle snow on the roof and ice dams? If you don’t have to deal with these issues, feel free to comment anyway.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


35 Responses to “Taking snow removal to the second level in Minnesota”

  1. I have to admit, that part of the Minnesota winter I don’t miss! I hope it all is melted by the time I get there at the end of the month. The museum of snow removal sounds like a good idea and also very Minnesotan.

    • I loved winter as a kid on the farm. But, as I’ve aged, not so much.

      Most of the snow should be gone by the end of March. Maybe. Hopefully. That said, more is predicted for next week. We’ve even had snow in early May.

      • I grew up on a farm too. Winter was when we worked firewood in the woods. So we never really enjoyed it. When I moved back to MN in 2005 I had forgotten what a hassle snow removal was by the end of each winter I was really ready for Spring! I enjoy the snow just not having to shovel.

      • Ah, I can understand your dislike of winter given that firewood gathering task. Since I grew up on the prairie of southwestern Minnesota, there were no woods from which to harvest. Our drafty farmhouse was heated by a big old oil burning stove set in the living room. Yes, the house always felt cold, except in that main room. Each fall Dad would wrap the exterior foundation in brown paper, an insulator against the cold temps.

        Thanks for sharing your Minnesota winter story. And welcome to the comments section.

  2. Randy on the roof- oh my! Even though we grumble about snow, where I live in Ohio, we have enough snow to require clearing the roads, driveways, and sidewalks- but not the roofs! I just showed my husband your photos. My spouse is a maniac about clearing ALL the snow from the driveway ASAP so the surface doesn’t get rutted and icy, so I’m he doesn’t have to go up on the housetop, too.

    • Randy likes the driveway super clean of snow and ice also. Maybe not to the extent of your husband, but close. He doesn’t like when snow gets packed on the drive by vehicle tires. For some reason that really bugs him.

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    You know that this is one reason I am very happy to have moved from Iowa. We had someone contracted to clear the driveway and they showed up without fail in the wee morning hours of any snow more than 2 inches. The sidewalks===that was another story. After many attempts to hire it done we finally found a disabled man who faithfully showed up in below zero temps to blow our corner lot sidewalks. He was amazing and I always appreciated his willingness to do a good job despite his disabilities. Here when we have snow we just hunker down for as long as it takes to clear off. I did shovel a bit the last snow so I could get out to the airport but normally it isn’t too bad. After our first winter here with a freak 13 inches of snow and a $250 bill to clear the driveway I said “no more”. Stay safe my friend. Spring is just around the corner.

    • That $250 bill sounds like price gouging. We clear our neighbors’ drive and walk multiple times for a tenth of that. And we wouldn’t accept payment from her except that she insists.

      I remember when you had those snow clearance issues in Iowa before finding that saint of snow removal.

      You belong in a warm (er) weather state with lots of sun, no snow and beaches.

  4. Wow, you have more snow than we do. We have some huge piles, though…maybe it’s just that it’s been windy so has moved onto the lake. Our front walk is treacherous because there’s no place for the melted snow to go so it just keeps re-freezing every night.

  5. sidetrackken Says:

    We’re about 12 miles north of Faribault, but we had new flat roofing installed last summer. Unlike the old roof, this one did not have rock ballast covering the membrane. We were warned it would be very slippery when wet. And what about when it had over a foot of snow on it?

    The weight of a glacier melts the ice at the bottom and that water becomes the lubrication for glacial movement. Same is true for snow on a flat, but slanted roof. I tried to go to my workout on Monday morning and found a two-foot berm of snow in front of the garage. Removing that was my workout.

    About 1AM the next morning, the loud sound of roof glacier calving woke us and the dog up, eliciting lots of barking from the canine. Another two-foot berm in front of the garage and a three+-foot berm in front of the front door. Another day devoted to shoveling and blowing ice and compacted snow that had slid off of the roof.

    That 30-year-old little snow blower is still the best money I ever spent on technology–cell phones and computers not withstanding.

  6. Judy M Says:

    When I saw the picture of Randy on the roof I thought, be careful and don’t fall off. I hope your weather warms up soon.

    • It’s been in the forties this week, which is warm for Minnesota in winter. And now I just heard the temp could reach 50 on Saturday. Oh, my. That’s good snow-melting and shirt sleeve weather. And then on Monday, we’re supposed to get snow. Again.

  7. That’s a lot of snow!! I’m from Boston, so I’m used to the huge storms from time to time, usually some ice, but it thaws out within a few days. No roof shoveling that’s for sure!

    • Since my son also lives in Boston, I am somewhat aware of your weather. A few years ago you had that awful winter of mega snow. He lived then in an apartment where the tenants had to dig out themselves. That was not a fun winter with all that shoveling. About a week or so ago (maybe longer, I lose track of time), he texted that the temp was supposed to hit 70. I sighed. Our temp back in Minnesota was 20 degrees.

  8. Jackie Says:

    Rick never shovels the roof, guess we’ve never had any troubles with ice dams or snow on the roof. I makes me nervous to see Randy on the roof, From this old ER nurse, tell him to be careful please 🙂

    • I appreciate your concern, Jackie. Oh, I do tell him to “be careful.” Maybe he listens. Maybe he doesn’t.

      I would guess the age of our house and its design all contribute to the ice dams and snow on the roof compared to your much newer house.

  9. Valerie Says:

    It makes me nervous – Randy being on the roof shoveling snow…..

  10. John Aase Says:

    I always say that snow is only beautiful and magical until the moment you have to go outside to deal with it. As soon as I have to shovel, snowblow, or even just walk somewhere in it I am immediately ready for spring to come.

    • You’ve pinpointed the problem– dealing with the snow. I loved snow as a child and played outside all the time in the winter. But now that I must deal with it, well, I’m more inclined not to like snow.

  11. Robynne Black Says:

    Gee. I have stood on a glacier in the past, but have never been in snow, its a sub tropical climate in the part of New Zealand where I live. Very enlightening Audrey. Thanks for sharing.

  12. jhc1218 Says:

    Jason and Randy are two peas in a pod when it comes to clean driveways. A friend stopped over Saturday night and he wasn’t thrilled that someone was leaving tracks in the driveway. It’s all melted now.
    Might I suggest you look at getting a roof rake. It’s a flat piece of aluminum attached to an extension pole, allowing the use to rake the snow off the roof while feet are firmly planted on the ground. Well worth the $25.

  13. Bella Says:

    Looks like a scary job removing snow but a necessary one. Good you are there to monitor

  14. parkerozgood Says:

    Fresh new batch of snow today!

  15. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    It sure has been a snowy winter. Cold too! Still not looking forward to pollen in the air

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