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Controlling Snow Drifts

When the snow is falling, and the wind is howling just right, a good snow fence is your defense against huge drifts that you’ll have to plow through.

Kristina Tebockhorst is an Extension ag engineering specialist at Iowa State University. She says the best fencing material is a heavy-duty, prefabricated plastic fence with half-solid and half-open spaces. This lets most of the snow through the fence but slows the wind, which helps prevents drifting. The distance that you put the fence away from the area you’re trying to protect is the key.

"It’s typically recommended somewhere between 20, to 30, or 35 times the height of the fence should be the distance away from, for example the road, if you’re trying to control drifting on the road," she says. "So, if we have 4’ snow fence material, we’d want to have at least 120’, maybe 140’ feet away from that road."

Vegetation can trap a lot of snow. She says some states have programs that compensate landowners to leave 8-to-16 rows of corn in a field that runs parallel to a road.

"They also have a CRP living snow fence program in many states, and your local NRCS office can let you know if that program is available and if you might be in an area that would be useful for a living snow fence, a couple rows of living vegetation like shrubs and trees," says Tebockhorst.

Keep grass and weeds mowed right next to the road. They act as a mini snow fence, creating drifts right on the roadway.

Find more tips for controlling snow drifts

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