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Heavy snowfall provides challenges for residents

by Canda HarbaughWestern News
| January 5, 2009 11:00 PM

Preventative measures and relatively low snow density has helped Lincoln County residents stay safe during what has seemed like non-stop snow.

Lincoln County Sheriff Daryl Anderson said snow-related emergencies have been low this winter. As of Monday, there had been no reports of snow collapsing roofs, compared to the winter of 1996, when snow caused 86 roofs to collapse in homes and businesses throughout the county.

“Before, no one got on the roof and shoveled until they saw someone else’s roof cave-in,” said Jim Sweet, Lincoln County detective captain. “Now people are taking precautions well ahead of time.”

Anderson recalls the old VFW Hall roof collapsing in Libby only hours after the building was full of people.

“It would have been a disaster,” Anderson said. “I think people learned from 1996.”

The volume of snow has been a nuisance so far this winter, but the snow’s density, about 24 pounds per square foot, has been quite manageable, according to Vic White, director of Lincoln County Emergency Management.

White conducts snow density measurements to keep business and homeowners informed.

“It’s not a 100 percent guaranteed science,” said White, “but it gives people an idea of how heavy the snow is on their roof.”

The light and powdery consistency isn’t conducive to recreational activities like snowshoeing and snowmobiling, but it has helped prevent roof cave-ins and has been a blessing for those who hand-shovel snow.

Every winter Libby chiropractors see patients that attribute their back pain to shoveling snow, and this year is no different.

Last year, more than 118,000 people were treated in the United States for injuries suffered while shoveling or doing other types of snow and ice removal, according to an American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons December press release.

Dr. Joel Riddel of Libby’s Riddel Chiropractic Clinic suggests stretching prior to shoveling, wearing back support and shoveling as frequently as possible while the snow is light and dry.

“When you’re shoveling, try to push the snow off when possible,” Riddel advised. “Try not to twist or throw snow to the side while shoveling. This can injure your back.”

More seriously, people with heart conditions or high blood pressure should consult their doctor before shoveling snow. Cold weather already strains the heart, so adding an aerobic workout such as shoveling snow can cause a heart attack.

“People need to make sure they keep up on their rest, nutrition and hydration during these harsh winter days,” said Amy Smart, Lincoln County Public Health nurse. “If you are going to be outside shoveling, take frequent breaks to prevent over-stressing your heart and your back.”

For those who can’t safely remove snow from their roofs and driveways themselves, White welcomes anyone to stop by his office at the Libby City Hall to pick up a list of snow removers.

“Sometimes it’s better just to hire someone to do that,” White said. “With a list, people can negotiate for what they can afford.”