GIMME SHELTER- Cold case: What's in your winter survival kit?

Ronnie Kite
Meadowbrook Hardware

Q: Now that winter seems to have arrived, I find I'm totally unprepared to deal with all the snow and ice. Any tips on what to include in my winter survival kit?

A: First, get yourself a proper shovel and a bag of ice melt. There are several varieties of ice melt brands, but they all contain a sodium and calcium chloride mix that melts snow and ice. Most are safe for use on concrete and grass and won't harm animals, but make sure to read the instructions before buying. You'll also want to be careful about spreading ice melt on wood surfaces like decks, as the mixture can seep into the grain and swell the wood. It's always a good idea to rinse ice melt residue off after the snow and ice is gone. 

Using a cup, simply spread the ice melt on the sidewalk, walkway, deck or stairs like you would grass seed.  Of course, if you're sure bad weather is on the way, you can also throw down some ice melt before it snows. And remember, a small amount goes a long way. As the mixture begins to melt the snow and ice, it creates a salty water mix that spreads, melts everything in its path, and won't freeze.

Snow shovels are made of either molded plastic, steel, or aluminum. They're also available with curved, ergonomic handles that are easier on your back. Plastic shovels are good for fragile surfaces and won't chip your concrete. Some plastic shovels also come with metal strips in the blade. Steel shovels are best for heavy, wet snow because they are sturdier. Aluminum shovels are perfect for the the light, dusty snow we had last week.

Remember, though, snow shovels aren't good for removing ice. Better to use your trusty square-point digging shovel for that. And most importantly, remember to take frequent breaks. Shoveling can be hard work; it's cold, and you may not realize how much you're exerting yourself.

Any winter survival kit should also include things for your car. Of course, a window scrapper is essential, either a short-handled model or the more popular long-handled model with a brush to remove snow. You can also get scrapers that come with a long insulated mitten so you don't get snow and ice up your sleeve or freeze your fingers. Also, it's a good idea to keep a little ice melt, some gloves, a blanket, and a shovel in your car. 

Lastly, for some people, heat lamps or heat tape might be useful. Heat lamps are good for keeping well-houses from freezing, or keeping barn animals or pets warm when the temperature dips down at night. And heat tape, which has a wire running through it and plugs into a wall socket, can be wrapped around pipes to keep them from freezing.

Ronnie Kite