An Engineer shovels snow
February 2010

I arrived back in the Washington area after two major snow storms (~20" and ~15") within about a week. The street my mother lives on had only been plowed 2 days before, and the driveway had not been touched. I came armed with a brand new steel snow shovel.

The Beginning

The snow plow had built an ice wall in front of the driveway, and I had to cut it into blocks to be able to shovel it. I carried the blocks across the street in order to have room to stack the driveway snow later. After awhile it became fun to see how high I could stack the blocks. Finally, it got to the point that it made no more sense to carry the blocks across the street.

Snow Blocks

Then the idea occurred to me - why not build a block wall on both sides of the driveway? This was ideal snow for it - maybe 3 feet of snow that had compacted to a little over a foot. And not a single footstep in it. I could make vertical chops on 3 sides, then lift out a nice rectangular block that was perfect for building a wall.

But it was tricky - the snow was brittle, and if a block cracked it could not be patched together again - the snow did not want to stick to itself. And snow in some areas of the driveway was firm, while in others it was softer.

The Idea

This was no longer shoveling a drive way - this was a construction project! Softer snow and cracked blocks went to make a 'foundation'. The firmer cubes were saved for the upper rows. As the walls got higher it became ever more challenging to stack the blocks without toppling a section of wall (which happened many times!) Could I get another row on top of this one... carefully, carefully,... poof! Oops...

Snow Walls

The hours melted away. A well intentioned neighbor came over with some snow shovels, but I could tell he was not into the art of this project. I finally convinced him that I was having fun and got him to leave.

Snow Walls

The whole project took over 4 hours of non-stop shoveling, but it had long since gone from being a chore to becoming a project.

Snow Walls

Snow Walls

Snow Walls

Another One

After posting this page, an engineer friend sent me this:

"(My wife) thought I was crazy (first picture). All I could say was that it kept me amused while shoveling. Strangely, after I went to clear the mailbox out of the plow wall (second picture) another layer or two had been added to all of my walls.

Paul K."
Snow Wall


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