Drifting snow…snow fences

As Thanksgiving is just around the corner that means snow is too. I have been buzzing around and I have noticed people putting up their snow fences so I know that it is only time before the snow will start to fall.

Our friends at the Linn County Extension Office gives us some tips to help prevent or minimize snow drifts to help eliminate one of the many downsides of snow. But just think snow means that we are just that much closer to spring and before we know it the Linn County Fair will be here. Oh the warm summer sun sounds good right about now. 🙂

Snow Drifts:

Minimize problems caused by drifting snow by properly installing snow fences

With winter just around the corner, snow fences are going up in anticipation of the snows that will surely come. Snow fences are just one of the ways to control drifting snow.

A proper snow fence will be about ½ solid and ½ open spaces. This lets most of the snow through the fence but slows the wind, and allows for maximum trapping of snow downwind of the snow fence.  The best fencing materials are wood picket and flexible mesh-like plastic.   To make sure they do the job right without creating more problems, they must be properly placed.

A majority of the snow is stored about 20 times the snow fence height downwind of the fence. However, in a severe winter, drift lengths can reach up to 25 to 30 times the fence height.  For best results, keep a 4 ft. snow fence back at least 80 ft. and preferably 120 ft. from the road or driveway you want to protect.  You also want it on the predominant up-wind side so if the road goes from east-to-west, place it on the north side.  On a north-south road, put it on the west side.

Fences should be as long as possible extending well beyond the protection zone. A bottom gap of 6 inches left under the fence allows for trapping the maximum amount of snow. Steel posts should be on 8 ft. centers and the end post should be braced with a steel post driven into the ground at an angle so it supports the top of the end post. Plastic fencing material should be sandwiched between two wood laths and wired tightly to the steel post at the center and near the top and bottom.

A longer term solution to drifting snow includes building up roads and driveways so that snow is blown across rather than drifting on to them. By elevating driveways above the surrounding terrain, wind will sweep snow off of the roadway.  Also, living snow fences of evergreens and shrubs can be planted to provide a permanent snow fence. Make sure that they are planted well back from the areas they are meant to protect. A good rule of thumb for Iowa is to allow 100-150 ft. for trapping of snow between the living snow fence and area to be protected.  Keep grass and weeds alongside roadways mowed down in the fall. This vegetation can act as a mini snow fence creating drifts right on the roadway. Leaving cornstalk stubble undisturbed will trap a great deal of snow out in the field and minimize the amount of snow that can drift onto a roadway.

Anywhere there is an obstruction, snow will drift. By strategically placing or removing these barriers, we can minimize problems from drifting snows.


Contact: Linda Bigley, Linn County Extension Education Director, 319-377-9839, lbigley@iastate.edu

Greg Brenneman, ISU Extension, Ag Engineering Program Specialist, 319-337-2145, gregb@iastate.edu

Amber Bisinger, ISU Extension, External Relations Specialist, 319-377-9839, bisinger@iastate.edu



Filed under General Fair news

2 responses to “Drifting snow…snow fences

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Drifting snow…snow fences | What's the BUZZ… -- Topsy.com

  2. rod

    we have farm with lot of buildings the snow drift around them with deep drift of snow we have over 1000ft of snow fence but need more in the wright place? maybe you can help us or refer to some one else thank you rod

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