Snow movers plead: ‘Use common sense’

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

With snowdrift season in full swing, the folks who shovel and clear residential driveways and sidewalks have a big request for their clients: Use common sense, and take away the obstacles hidden under the snow.

“Help us help you,” says Bruce McDonald of Dilworth. Along with his wife Sheila and adult children Jeff, Shawn and Elaina, he operates one of the several dozen small companies – many of them families – that contract with homeowners across the metro area to perform the heavy labor they cannot do themselves.

“We tell our customers to have their sidewalks clear when it starts to snow,” he says. “After it comes down, we can’t see what’s in the way. We chewed up a Santa Claus just today that was buried under two feet of snow.”

The same decorations that brightened the holidays become dire obstacles after several inches of wind-blown snow have created drifts on the concrete that Bruce and his crew come to scour. Mini Christmas trees in pots and smaller lighted characters bring no cheer on these January days; nor do empty flower pots, doormats and – worst of all – dogs’ chains submerged in snow across the sidewalk.

The worst they’ve run into? A brick in the middle of someone’s walk, buried beneath 24 hours’ worth of heavy snow. “Come on now,” McDonald remarks. “That could take out the snowblower if we’d run over it. You’d never leave it there if you had to clear it yourself!”

Coping with city snow removal equipment is enough of a challenge: “The plows can leave windrows out six or eight feet from the curb,” McDonald observes. “I understand. They’re busy, and it’s hard enough to get it done. But they can leave mountains of the stuff for us to clear.”

The McDonald clan brings a skid-steer, a tractor, a walk-behind snowblower and plain old shovels to the 135 houses and townhomes who have contracted for their services, many around Village Green and Hampton Court in south Moorhead. They turn their attention to lawn care in summer and finish yards for contractors.

With their smaller yards and broader driveways, some new developments have built-in challenges for the snow removal contractors. “In a lot of places, there aren’t any available storage places,” McDonald says. When that space has reached capacity, he has to call in contractors of his own to load the snow and haul it away.

Like others in his business, he expects to stay busy for the foreseeable future. “It seems like we’re in a pattern, with wind every third day or so,” he says. Between weather events, he spends his time fixing and maintaining his well-worn equipment. Lately the routine has kept him busy. But it is people who cause the most wear and tear.

“At times, people’s attitudes can wear you down more than the snow itself,” he confesses. “We’re trying our best … but not everybody gets to be first.”

Snow removal contractor Bruce McDonald asks homeowners to be sure their sidewalks are clear of decorations and debris that lurk under the snow.

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