Snow fences are typically used to control the depth of snowdrifts. Snowdrifts are caused by blowing snow collecting into piles after they hit an obstacle. In areas that have wide-open expanses with heavy snowfall, snowdrifts can be quite common. These deep piles of snow can obstruct vehicle traffic, especially for long driveways across open areas of property. You can control the placement of the snowdrift by properly installing a temporary snow fence.
Assessing the Site
Find the prevailing winds for the times when snow is falling. Typically this will be from the north to a northwest direction. The fence will need to be orientated before the area in which the drift is to be made. The fencing also has to be installed so that it pushes against the posts. The movement of the blowing snow should also be considered by the strength of the winds. Winds that are less than 20 mph will cause snow to collect to a height of no more than 4 feet deep 90 percent of the time; this declines to 70 percent when winds are less than 45 mph. The fence placement and height can be assessed from this information.
Where to Place the Fence
The snow fence should be placed parallel to the road if at all possible. This may not always be the case in certain orientations. Most importantly the fence needs to be placed perpendicular to the prevailing winds. The distance from the road to the fence will depend on the strength of the wind and its direction. A general rule of thumb is to keep the fence back from the road at least 20 to 30 times the fence's height. A 4-foot-high fence will need to be placed from 80 feet to 120 feet from the roadway it is protecting. This will allow for a long drift to be made on the side of the fence opposite to the wind's direction.
The Fence Construction
Support posts should be placed no less than 8 feet on centers from one another. The fencing needs to placed on the wind side of the posts. In other words, the wind should be pushing the fence into the posts. Placing the fencing on the backside of the posts may cause the fence to blow loose from the vertical posts. In areas with heavy winds, the posts may need to be placed closer together such as 6 feet apart. Guy wires should be placed at each end of the snow fencing run. These guy wires should be run parallel to the fence and secured to posts driven into the ground. A minimum of 5 inches should be left from the bottom of the fence to the ground's surface. This will allow snow to blow through this area and not build up at the bottom of the fence. Built-up snow may create an unwanted drift at the fence.
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