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Snow Drift in driveway
Old 03-23-2018, 12:05 PM   #1
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Snow Drift in driveway

My driveway is kind of built into the side of a hill. At one point especially, to make the driveway reasonably level from side to side, the builder dug into the hill. The driveway is about 3' lower than the ground along side the driveway in this spot, and less so at the top and bottom. It was the best option because putting the garage and driveway any other place would've resulted in a big drop from top to bottom.

When it snows, this spot drifts badly. 98% of the time the wind blows over the top of that hill, and the wind is blocked in my driveway, so the snow settles here. I can easily get a 4' high drift with 6" of snow. And worse, I'll go out and shovel, and if the wind is still blowing and we haven't had a thaw and refreeze, it fills back in. There are also some trees on the hill but they are mostly tall and deciduous and shouldn't block the wind too much, and removing them isn't really a good option.

We get from 20"-100" of snow in a year typically, but with those drifts it seems like a whole lot more! I really don't mind shoveling snow, but that drift usually blocks me in so that I have no choice but to shovel before going anyway. I'd be happy to just address that one problem area (actually there is a second smaller drift by the top of my driveway) and shovel the rest. I think a snow blower would have a lot of trouble with the wind packed drift. Getting someone out there to plow before I want to get out would be a challenge.

The most obvious solution is a snow fence, but my driveway is near the lot line, so it'd have to be in the middle of my neighbors front yard. That's just not an option. I also can't level out the hill there since not much of the hill is mine, and I suspect I'd just create a bigger windblock. Filling in what they dug out would create way too slanted of a driveway.

One idea I have is to put a warming mat or two down before a snow and plugging it in, like this: https://www.amazon.com/Heated-Meltin.../dp/B076HW43MS Does this seem reasonable? I'd have to lay out it before a storm and remove it before driving over it, but I could live with that. It's entirely possible that it would drift everywhere else, but I'm hoping that if I put one or two of these in the calmest spots, it's melt the snow as it landed and keep much of any kind of drift from forming. That company also makes a full driveway mat, but at $1600 for a 20'x2' strip, that seems excessive, and it wouldn't come close to covering my whole driveway.

Another idea is to put a big drum fan out there to create wind in the dead spot so it won't settle there. The hope would be that the snow would keep blowing enough to not drift, since drifts are formed in calm spots. But most fans aren't rated for outdoors. About all I've found is giant football sideline fans that cost a couple grand. I just happened to get a Northern Tool catalog in the mail and they have 15 pages of fans, but none seem to be able to be run out in the weather. Does a reasonably priced (under $200) weatherproof fan exist that would be big enough to keep blowing snow moving?

Any other ideas? I can still take on the drifts with my shovel, but as I get older this may turn into more of an issue. I have a vague notion I've brought this up before but I did a thorough search and couldn't find anything on it.
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Old 03-23-2018, 12:11 PM   #2
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Park your cars there when it starts snowing.
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Old 03-23-2018, 12:14 PM   #3
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I don't know why you say that a snow thrower can't handle the drift. If you're not restricted by your ability to store it, you can get a snow thrower that will move the snow. Get something like a 30 inch 10 HP 2 stage snow thrower and it will move the snow. If you can shovel it, a snow thrower will throw it. For example:

https://www.snowblowersdirect.com/Ar...er/p77409.html

I'm sure you could get one to do the job you're describing for less money and it wouldn't need to be so big, but my point is that there is a piece of equipment that will handle your problem and get you out of the driveway pretty quickly.
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Old 03-23-2018, 12:31 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by LOL! View Post
Park your cars there when it starts snowing.
You know, I actually have done that a few times, and I guess I forgot about it. It's nice to get into a warmer car in the garage, but OTOH, I can start it up and let it warm up while I clear the rest of the path. It did work pretty well in the past. Thanks for reminding me of this!
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Old 03-23-2018, 12:36 PM   #5
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The most obvious solution is a snow fence moving to a warmer climate.
FIFY

Seriously, this is the kind of thing a good snow thrower is made for. I like the Ariens brand.
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Old 03-23-2018, 12:38 PM   #6
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Throw some anchors in the ground and stretch a tarp across the driveway eliminating the drop off before the storm?
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Old 03-23-2018, 12:45 PM   #7
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I don't know why you say that a snow thrower can't handle the drift. If you're not restricted by your ability to store it, you can get a snow thrower that will move the snow. Get something like a 30 inch 10 HP 2 stage snow thrower and it will move the snow. If you can shovel it, a snow thrower will throw it. For example:

https://www.snowblowersdirect.com/Ar...er/p77409.html

I'm sure you could get one to do the job you're describing for less money and it wouldn't need to be so big, but my point is that there is a piece of equipment that will handle your problem and get you out of the driveway pretty quickly.
I had the impression that a snow blower doesn't work well with drifted snow that gets packed in really well. Maybe I'm wrong. I know there's always equipment that can do it, at a cost. I thought I'd look for ways to prevent the drift to begin with, given what I have to work with now.

I also don't like snow blowers as much since I have a gravel driveway, but I think on some if not most you can raise the blades to not get down to the surface, right? I've considered paving the drive to make it easier to scrape, but for various other reasons I'd rather not.
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Old 03-23-2018, 12:48 PM   #8
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Throw some anchors in the ground and stretch a tarp across the driveway eliminating the drop off before the storm?
I had a thought like that, maybe put hay bales or something under the tarp. Kind of seems like more prep work than just throwing out a mat or fan and plugging it in, but it's something to consider.
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Old 03-23-2018, 12:50 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by braumeister View Post
FIFY

Seriously, this is the kind of thing a good snow thrower is made for. I like the Ariens brand.
Definitely not moving, LOL, but I might've just been looking at cheap snow throwers and I need, as you say, a good snow thrower.
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Old 03-23-2018, 12:54 PM   #10
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I had the impression that a snow blower doesn't work well with drifted snow that gets packed in really well. Maybe I'm wrong. I know there's always equipment that can do it, at a cost. I thought I'd look for ways to prevent the drift to begin with, given what I have to work with now.

I also don't like snow blowers as much since I have a gravel driveway, but I think on some if not most you can raise the blades to not get down to the surface, right? I've considered paving the drive to make it easier to scrape, but for various other reasons I'd rather not.
I had a snowblower on front of my garden tractor that I used to clear our driveway for a number of years. It was very powerful and could easily cut through packed snowdrifts. As long as the snow that I was trying to cut through was 24" or less... no problem. IIRC it was a 18hp tractor with weights and chains.

Our driveway was also gravel. I would intentionally not snowblow smaller storms early in the season to get a good base of packed snow. Also, early in the season if I did snowblow I would adjust the skids on the bottom of the snowblower to leave 3/4" or so of snow to avoid blowing gravel... mid-season I would adjust the skids to be lower.
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Old 03-23-2018, 01:02 PM   #11
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...I think on some if not most you can raise the blades to not get down to the surface, right?
Yes, you can raise the blade to I think an inch and a half or two inches. Gravel driveways are the reason for that.

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Definitely not moving, LOL, but I might've just been looking at cheap snow throwers and I need, as you say, a good snow thrower.
From what I've seen good and cheap are mutually exclusive goals. I've bought Airens snow throwers and they are good. Cheap they are not.
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Old 03-23-2018, 01:07 PM   #12
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I had a snowblower on front of my garden tractor that I used to clear our driveway for a number of years. It was very powerful and could easily cut through packed snowdrifts. As long as the snow that I was trying to cut through was 24" or less... no problem. IIRC it was a 18hp tractor with weights and chains.

Our driveway was also gravel. I would intentionally not snowblow smaller storms early in the season to get a good base of packed snow. Also, early in the season if I did snowblow I would adjust the skids on the bottom of the snowblower to leave 3/4" or so of snow to avoid blowing gravel... mid-season I would adjust the skids to be lower.
We get more thaws so if I left snow on the ground it melt and refreeze and I'd be dealing with an icy driveway. I've got less of a hill than most people here on the mountain, but it'd still be pretty dicey. I find with shoveling if I can break it up and get to some of the dark rocks, the sun will melt it pretty quickly, plus even getting some traction on that in places helps a lot. So with a snow thrower, I'd only use it on big snows, and make a pass with my shovel afterward.

Appreciate all of the replies, keep 'em coming!
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Old 03-23-2018, 01:25 PM   #13
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That is a risk, but you can salt or sand to get good traction.
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Old 03-23-2018, 01:29 PM   #14
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I snowblow a gravel driveway in snow country(not this year). Last year we had 100"+ and it had no problem. Not a lot of drifts but we're on a curve in the road and the snowplow loves to pile up feet of hard chunks in the driveway.

Yes you raise the feet up a couple inches to keep it out of gravel.
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Old 03-23-2018, 01:37 PM   #15
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What about heat lamps? One downside is they'll make your electric meter spin faster than a fan, no pun intended.
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Old 03-23-2018, 01:49 PM   #16
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What about heat lamps? One downside is they'll make your electric meter spin faster than a fan, no pun intended.
I can't picture how that would work? I'm thinking that a heating mat would warm the ground and melt it there, with no air in between to cool it, so it'd be reasonably efficient. I read that the one I've looked at heats to about 80 degrees. I don't know how I would position a heat lamp to effectively melt a portion of a driveway.
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Old 03-23-2018, 01:52 PM   #17
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Build a drive through structure there. Make it look like a covered bridge so it is aesthetically pleasing.
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Old 03-23-2018, 02:01 PM   #18
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I don't have one but many do here where I live and that is a plow for the front of the their suv or truck. They don't need it all the time but they will back into their garage with the plow attached to their vehicle. They then can open the door (garage) and plow away from the garage like you are describing. Not sure if that would be an option but they are a fast way to move snow and does a great job. The trick for me where mine drifts all the time is to blow mine a couple of times before the storm or drifting is over. I get rid of the snow a few times before it get to deep to handle.

I have a snow blower and it has no problem going through 30" of snow. If it is deeper then that you need to get it knocked down in order to blow it. It is a slow process but it works.

Something for you to consider.
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Old 03-23-2018, 02:06 PM   #19
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Build a drive through structure there. Make it look like a covered bridge so it is aesthetically pleasing.
A "pre-garage", eh? I don't think I could get that past the ARB, and there would be more challenges for my site since it's not just a basic garage-width driveway. I do love covered bridges though. If I could make that work it would be pretty cool!
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Old 03-23-2018, 02:08 PM   #20
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I can't picture how that would work? I'm thinking that a heating mat would warm the ground and melt it there, with no air in between to cool it, so it'd be reasonably efficient. I read that the one I've looked at heats to about 80 degrees. I don't know how I would position a heat lamp to effectively melt a portion of a driveway.
I'd not want mats if one can't drive over them. I envision X quantity of lamps each on its own short tripod placed along the edge of the driveway at the trouble spot. The reflector bowl of each lamp would be angled toward a tire tread path of the driveway. A switch inside your home would let you flip the heat on and off as needed. Amtrak uses heat lamps for similar melting purposes at problem locations.
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