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Caution urged when pulling up to intersections obstructed by snow; shoveling tips offered

Staff reports

As residents in Willmar and other west central Minnesota towns continue removing snow from driveways, the height of snow banks is becoming hazardous.

The following is a list of safety concerns to consider when shoveling and blowing snow.

- Fire hydrant clearing -- The city of Willmar and other west central Minnesota cities ask residents living near fire hydrants to remove the snow around hydrants for safety purposes. Most cities have volunteer fire departments and do not have adequate department time to clear fire hydrants.

- Driving sight lines -- Driver vision can be limited by high snow banks as you approach intersections or leave driveways. Use extra caution as you drive through these locations.

- Kids playing -- Parents should not allow their children to play on or dig in any snow bank or piles. City crews can be moving snow banks or piles at any time and can injure children on or near snow banks or piles.

- Tunnel digging -- Digging tunnels in snow banks or piles is dangerous for children. The tunnel digging can lead to the collapse of the opening and cause suffocation and even death.

- Residents should also try to refrain from shoveling snow so high the weight of the snow could cause back injuries. Health officials report that an increase in fatal heart attacks can occur among snow shovelers after heavy snowfalls or excessive shoveling.

North Dakota State University professors report that after only two minutes of snow shoveling, the heart rates of sedentary men rose to levels higher than what is normally recommended during aerobic exercise.

In addition, NDSU officials say that cold weather, which is expected in west central Minnesota today and Friday, will make working and breathing harder, which adds strain to the body. Shovelers also are risk for hypothermia, a decrease body temperature.

To ensure that individuals properly prepare themselves to prevent injury from shoveling, the Association of New jersey Chiropractors recommends the following tips.

- Give yourself plenty of time to complete your shoveling. Rushing your shoveling can lead to injury.

- If you shovel by hand, use a lightweight, ergonomically-designed shovel to reduce back strain.

- Wear layers of clothing when shoveling to keep your muscles warm and flexible.

- Do some stretching before starting snow shoveling.

- When shoveling, push the snow straight ahead. Do not try to throw it; walk it to the snow bank. Avoid sudden twisting and turning motions.

- Bend your knees, to lift when shoveling.

- Use the muscles of your legs and arms to do the work, not your back.

- For big snow removal jobs, use a motorized snow blower or hire a snow-removal business to complete the task.

- Take frequent breaks to ease the strain on your muscles. A fatigued body asks for injury.

- Stop if you feel chest pain, or get excessively tired or have shortness of breath. Seek immediate medical care if you feel chest pain. Injuries from snow shoveling can include strains, sprains, muscle spasms and other health problems, such as a heart attack.