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Ready for the first snow? Here's how to get prepared

Don't get caught by a harsh winter ahead

Are you ready for the first snow? Here's how to get prepared Credit: Getty Images / dovate

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While most places across the U.S. didn't get much snow in 2019, La Niña is expected to make conditions perfect for a ton of snowfall this year, according to the National Weather Service. In fact, some places in the Northeast have already had their first snowfall of the coming winter, early around Halloween.

Given the current forecast, it's a good idea to get out ahead of the problem and make sure you're all stocked up on everything you need to deal with lots of heavy, wet snow.

1. Invest in a good shovel

One of the core tools in your arsenal for digging yourself out of a snow fall? A sturdy snow shovel. We recently updated our round-up of the best showshovels out there, and this year our pick is the Forest Hill Homeowner Aluminum Scoop Shovel (available on Amazon for $64.99).

While this shovel is a bit on the expensive side, it's also a great all-around shovel—not just for the cold stuff. Not only do we think you'll get a lot of use out of it, it's shorter handle and well-balanced design make it easy to use.

If you don't need a multitasker of a shovel, we'd also recommend the True Temper Aluminum Combo Blade 20-inch Shovel (available at Home Depot for $32.97). This one is a bit more tuned for snow removal, and has some better plow capabilities than the Forest Hill shovel. The True Temper also has a steel wear strip to help prevent snow from freezing to the shovel.

2. If it's too much to shovel, get a snow blower

A close-up of the Snow Joe snowblower doing its thing: blowing snow.
Credit: Snow Joe

In 2020, we're due for lots of heavy, wet snow, which can be tough to manually shovel away. A snowblower can help save your arms and back from the labor.

Again, the snow this year is predicted to be heavy, wet, and consistent throughout the season. Depending on where you live, it's possible a shovel won't cut it. If you're in an area that's forecasted to get buried, it may make sense to invest in a snow blower. A good snow blower can help you breeze through the chore of clearing your walkways and driveway, leaving the most back-breaking part of the work to the machine.

When it comes to snowblowers, we've liked the Snow Joe Ultra SJ623E (available on Amazon for $139). This is an electric thrower, so there's no need to mess around with gas, oil, priming, or pulling—just get a suitably long extension cord and you're good to go. The motor is powerful enough to throw snow about 25 feet, and the chute rotates 180-degrees so you can avoid blowing into the wind. The SJ623E is rated to 720 lbs. of snow movement per minute, which means it can clear a driveway of average length with half a foot of accumulation in about 20 minutes. Shoveling the same amount could take hours.

This is also one of the lower price we've seen this snowblower at recently, so it may be a good use of resources to invest in it now, before the snow starts to hit and prices go up again.

3. Get some ice melt for your walkways and driveway

Salt melts ice because of the way its ions interact with water.

Once you've gotten most of the snow cleared away, you'll probably have a sheet of ice lying underneath. That's where ice melt comes in, an appropriately-named product if we've seen one. While you could technically just use table salt to clear away unwanted ice, it's much more effective to use rock salt instead.

We had some great luck with Blue Heat Snow and Ice Melter Rock Salt (available on Amazon for $22.99). While it takes ice melt a little while to get started, it has a lot of penetrative power: After an hour, we found individual granules had bored deep fissures into a solid block of ice, making it much easier to break apart and shovel aside.

You could also mix in some sand to help provide a bit more traction on particularly difficult surfaces, and to help prevent ice from reforming as quickly.

4. An ice scraper and snow brush for your car

Someone using the Mallory snow brush to clean off a windshield.
Credit: Hopkins Manufacturing

A few folks at our office swear by this Mallory snow brush.

Now that the driveway is clear again, it's time to dig out your car. And when it comes to scraping the ice away, we have a perennial favorite at our office: the Mallory Snow Brush (available on Amazon for $7.85).

A few of us at Reviewed absolutely swear by this thing. The foam grip is thick and easy to handle, the scraper is strong and can last years without chipping or shattering, and the brush is wide enough to get snow off the roof. This one is a best-seller on Amazon, and we certainly think that's for good reason (it also seems to be on sale for a few bucks off at the moment).

5. Don't let winter ice lock you out

A shot of someone using a lock de-icer to de-ice a windshield.
Credit: Concept Laboratories

Lock de-icers are best when they're set up for general use. We prefer spray bottles and canisters to the small-nozzled tubes.

Nothing is worse than making it through the blustery cold and slippery ice to your front door or car, only to realize snowmelt runoff has found its way down into the lock and frozen solid. While keyless entry and fobs have made this less of an issue than it used to be, if you still rely on turning a key to get into places, it makes sense to invest in a bottle of lock de-icer (available on Amazon for $13.92) to safeguard against getting stranded.

We typically like de-icers that are more multipurpose. While you can get some that specialize in locks specifically, those typically come in bottles or tubes that make the products ill-suited for use outside of a lock de-icing context. We've found the generalized de-icers work just as well, and are better suited for use in other contexts, such as spraying away any stubborn windshield ice.

6. Keep your windshield fluid topped off

A close-up of fluid getting sprayed onto a windshield.
Credit: 2010 Products

If you always seem to run out of fluid right around the time your windshield is crusted up with salt, then make sure you're topped-off before the snowfall starts.

It's best to double-check to make sure your windshield fluid levels are full before the bad weather starts to hit. Not only do you not want to get stuck with no fluid as soon as your windshield is covered in salty, icy muck, but refilling it while it's sleeting outside is less than ideal. Finding de-icer for your car in a pinch can also be difficult, as most convenience stores tend to jack up the prices in the middle of a storm.

We'd recommend investing in some concentrated fluid (available on Amazon for $18.98). Concentrated wiper and de-icer fluid is ideal, because one bottle can make up to 55 gallons of fluid. That means you'll always have some on hand, without having to sacrifice 55 gallons worth of storage space.

7. Clean your gutters

A Water Rocket gutter cleaning tool attached to a hose and snaked through a gutter. It's blasting a jet of water forward through the gutter and several jets of water behind it.
Credit: Water Rocket

If you’re looking to perform typical gutter maintenance, a hose attachment like this one could help do a lot of the work for you.

If you haven't done so already, you really need to get your gutters in good shape before the snow starts to fall. If your gutters are clogged, water won't drain properly. When the cold season really starts to hit, that means meltwater will refreeze without draining, creating an ice dam that traps even more water. Ice dams are a problem that only get worse over time and can result in costly water damage.

If you want to clean out gutters yourself, you’ll need a ladder equipped with a stand-off stabilizer, some gloves, and maybe a gutter scoop depending on the consistency of the gunk up there.

If you’d prefer an alternative, or have gutters that aren’t easily accessible, it may be worthwhile to test out this Water Rocket gutter cleaning tool (available on Amazon for $19.27). You attach it to the end of a hose and it snakes its way up through your gutter, loosening clogs and helping debris drain out. Users say it’s great for typical gutter grime, but for sticks or more substantial debris you’ll still need to break out the ladder.

Stay prepared for whatever this winter can throw at you

Woman shovels snow outside her home in UK
Credit: Getty Images / PaulMaguire

As long as you're properly prepared, no amount of snow can keep you down this winter.

As long as you know what to expect and you've stocked up on the essentials, you should be able to wait out the winter with relative ease. The worst snow-based situations result from being caught unprepared, which can leave you both literally and figuratively out in the cold.

If you're looking for more ways to prep for winter, we have a list of essentials you should stock up on before the season really hits and they sell out.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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