CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Dealing with Ice

Posted by: Curtis Utley, Jefferson County Extension

Shoveling Snow 
Well, we have had our first big, cold snowstorm of the season and the snow and ice is still hanging around. This is a problem for me because I still walk my youngest to school. Do kids still walk to school? Do people still walk? By law, as a property owner in most municipalities you are required to keep sidewalks cleared of ice and snow for pedestrians. This requirement has been lost on most people who could care less about us few who still use sidewalks, and I have yet to hear of anyone receiving a citation from a code enforcement officer reminding a property owner of their civic duty. So that being said, wise people in positions of authority have always told me, “Do not complain without offering up potential solutions”.
Snow melting into ice across sidewalk

My reply, "To whom it should concern:  The snow and ice found days later post storm on city sidewalks is hindering my free mobility across our fair city, not to mention the direct violation of the ADA standards that should be upheld by our fair city for my wheelchair-bound neighbor. I would like to provide you some information to address this issue."

 When possible, snow should be removed from sidewalks immediately following the storm to prevent it from melting and refreezing into ice. If you have a choice, deposit snow below the sidewalk so as it melts it does not create ice on the sidewalk. If you are planning to install a new sidewalk consider inserting heat cables below or within the slab to gently warm the concrete to prevent snow and ice from forming. Another idea is to keep a bucket of heated sand or gravel inside that can be sprinkled out onto the sidewalk if ice has formed. Sand heated to room temperature (70 degrees F.) will melt into the surface of the ice, and as it cools, it will re-freeze into a less slippery surface. All of these options also have the benefit of being kind to adjoining landscapes as opposed to deicing salts.
Warm sand and gravel will add traction to icy sidewalks 

For your information, chloride salts are harmful to most plants; sodium chloride is the worst followed by magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium chloride and Urea/Carbonyl diamide . Every application of Ice melt increases the potential to cause damage to landscapes. Ice melt salts readily dissolve in water and get flushed into landscape soils where they often remain unless flushed out of the soil profile with copious amounts of clean water. If you only use ice melt salts once or twice per season landscapes probably will not suffer as long as you follow the application instructions on the bag.
Salty melt-water flowing into landscape bed 
Fir needle damage caused by ice melt product

CMA (Calcium Magnesium Acetate) is the only commercially available ice melt product that will not accumulate in landscape soils and damage plants. Unfortunately CMA does have limitations, it works best if applied before it begins to snow, and will only prevent ice formation at temperatures above 20 degrees F. However you decide to manage sidewalk ice and snow, remember that some kids still walk to school. 

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