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You can't blow it, and you can't shovel it

The number of broken down snowblowers left for repair at Denny's Lawn and Garden in Duluth was mounting on Monday. Dozens of them had been silenced by broken shear pins, drive discs and burnt belts from trying to move Friday's wet, heavy snow. Th...

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The number of broken down snowblowers left for repair at Denny's Lawn and Garden in Duluth was mounting on Monday.

Dozens of them had been silenced by broken shear pins, drive discs and burnt belts from trying to move Friday's wet, heavy snow.

The Woodland store could end up with 100 blowers to fix from the storm, spokesman Denny Moran said. "It will be 2½ to 3 weeks before some of them will get them back."

Really, the odds were against them.

"Snow blowers don't do a good job blowing slush," Moran said. "They hit that ice and slush, then next time you go to use it, it will be froze. It won't go into gear. Heavy wet snow will tear everything up."

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Colder weather left a new frustration for those who hadn't yet cleared their sidewalks and driveways of up to two feet of snow that buried Duluth over Christmas: how to remove the now rock-hard snow.

Snow blowers can't handle it. Plastic and aluminum shovels don't make a dent. Few of us have heavy machinery to move the icy snow and boulders of ice left by city snowplows.

Answers were found at local hardware stores Monday, which were seeing brisk sales of ice choppers and steel snow shovels that can break up the hardened mounds of snow for shoveling or snowblowing.

Moran noted that more pliable snow lies beneath a five-inch ice crust from the rains that capped the heavy snowfall.

If that hard crust is knocked down with a pick, metal shovel or ice chopper and then broken down further into small pieces, then the snowblower can handle it, Moran said.

By Monday afternoon, Denny's Ace Hardware had nearly depleted its supply of ice choppers, but a new supply was expected this morning. In Duluth, prices for the long-handled ice choppers range from about $9 to $40.

Hardware stores typically don't sell a lot of steel snow shovels anymore. They're heavy and snow tends to freeze to them. Most prefer plastic or aluminum shovels that are easier to handle, said Chris Monroe, who works at Marshall Hardware in Lakeside.

But with this storm, many wanted the steel shovels, she and others said.

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"A lot of the heavier shovels went first," said Brad Carey, general manager of Menards in Hermantown. "They were buying steel shovels for durability. Lighter ones were collapsing under the weight of the snow. A lot of times, a true steel shovel will be used for chopping ice as well."

At Marshall Hardware, which sold out of steel shovels with more coming, Monroe suggested another way to penetrate the hardened snow.

Salt.

"That will soften the ice on the packed snow," she said. "But that stuff is harsh on concrete and lawns, so the best thing is let it melt and then remove it."

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