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Howard County asks residents to exercise caution when shoveling

Snow is falling and wind keeps blowing, but that isn't stopping Howard County residents from staying on top of their shoveling.

With Winter Storm Jonas finally here, the National Weather Service has downgraded their predicted snow accumulation from 28 to 30 inches to 18 to 24 inches, with lighter winds expected. Howard County remains under a State of Emergency, as declared by County Executive Allan Kittleman Friday evening, and residents are asked to stay off the roads over the weekend.

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Among other county departments and emergency teams, Chief Tom Meunier, of the county's Bureau of Highways, said snowplows are hard at work, clearing main and secondary roads and making them passable.

During an average snowstorm, with maybe snow 6 inches or less, Meunier said it takes plows roughly 18 to 20 hours to clear all the roads.

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"A snow event this size? It's going to take days," he added. "Once the snow stops sometime around Sunday morning, it's going to take days after that to completely clear everything. …As it's coming down probably over an inch an hour, it's going to be a large task."

In an effort to help anyone avoid that "second shovel," Meunier also said residents should wait to begin shoveling until plows have passed the front of their driveways.

"Typically, a resident will shovel their driveway out and there's still snow in the street," Meunier said. "When the plow comes by, whatever is rolling off the plow ends up in the driveway opening."

Residents then can shovel a pocket around the shoulder or curb of their driveway, Meunier explained, allowing more space for excess snow during plowing.

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Any cars parked in the streets also make plowing difficult, Meunier said, reminding residents to park in their driveways.

"We plead that you don't park on the street," Meunier said. "And if you have to be out driving, keep a safe distance away from the plow truck."

According to Howard County's Department of Fire and Rescue officials, residents should also be careful, as shoveling can be quite strenuous.

"Shoveling, even pushing a heavy snow blower, can cause sudden increase in blood pressure and heart rate, and the cold air can cause constriction of the blood vessel and decrease oxygen to the heart," officials said on the department's Facebook page. "All these work in concert to increase the work of the heart and trigger a potentially fatal heart attack."

In addition to helping neighbors who may need assistance with shoveling, the county government provided the following tips to reduce residents' risk of injury when shoveling snow:

• Warm-up before you start

• Scoop small amounts of snow at a time

• Where possible, push the snow instead of lifting it

• Take frequent breaks in a warm area

• Use proper lifting technique (keep the back straight, lift with the legs and do not turn or twist the body) to avoid back and other injuries.

Updates on the snowstorm will be available at www.howardcountymd.gov/storminfo.htm, the county's Facebook and Twitter pages, and Kittleman's Facebook and Twitter accounts.

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