Columbia residents shovel out after the blizzard

Thursday, February 3, 2011 | 6:55 p.m. CST; updated 7:57 a.m. CST, Friday, February 4, 2011

COLUMBIA — Columbia residents have begun to dig out from under the 17.8 inches of snow Tuesday's blizzard dumped on the city.

After three days of canceled classes, many MU students spent the day attempting to unearth their cars.

A shoveled driveway: priceless

Columbia residents weighed in on the value of a shoveled driveway after the blizzard passed.

Stephanie Swanson and David Bage of 1900 Weatherwood Ave. started digging out of their driveway about 2 p.m. Thursday. 

"I wish we got plowed. It'd be a lot easier," Bage said.

When asked how much they would be willing to pay someone to shovel their driveway, Swanson said, "20 bucks an hour."

Mike Denzel, just a couple of houses down at 1804 Weatherwood Ave., said he would be willing to pay between $15 to $20 for shoveling services.

"Nobody offered, so I did it," Denzel said. 

The days when children did odd jobs to earn extra cash seem outdated, he said. 

"There always been stories about kids mowing lawns and shoveling snow for money," Denzel said. "I don't know if it's moral fashion anymore." 

Christina Ebenroth of 2709 Parker St. works at Boone Hospital Center as an emergency medical technician and had not been home for a couple of days. Ebenroth lives with her sister, who began shoveling their driveway. 

Ebenroth said nobody has offered their services, but said she would pay as much as $50 for someone to shovel the driveway and their walkway. 

"I hate shoveling snow, so I would pay a lot," Ebenroth said.

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Michael Brown, Brandon Knopf and Alex Huck, residents of The Reserve at Columbia, made quick work of clearing Knopf’s car in The Reserve's parking lot.

But Knopf said Brown’s car took over an hour to dig out. The shovelers said this was because of The Reserve’s snowplowing techniques.

“They mounded all the snow behind my car,” Brown said. “They shouldn’t pile snow behind cars.”

“I’m moving to Florida,” Huck said. 

MU students Paul Hampel and Brian Gerstenkorn were out shoveling their driveway with their two roommates.

“We finally motivated ourselves to get out here,” Hampel said.

They had just received the alert that classes would be back in session Friday. Gerstenkorn was frustrated that their street, Man-O-War Drive, had not been plowed by the city. The worst of the snow had been removed by a neighbor with a backhoe, but cars still spun on what remained.

In the Brookside Townhomes complex, MU finance student Chris Seiffert, 19, struggled to get his car out of its parking spot.

Seiffert invited 10 friends to his apartment Monday to get “snowed in,” and come Thursday, that was exactly what happened.

Like most Brookside residents, Seiffert had to battle the snow that accumulated during the blizzard and the inches added when the snowplow came through the lot Thursday morning to create a path for vehicles to drive.

“I have a shovel and a flamethrower, that’s the game plan,” Seiffert said jokingly. “But there’s nowhere to put (the snow).”

Cory Fullerton, who works in flooring, was out shoveling the curb in front of his mailbox on Derby Ridge on Thursday afternoon. He had cleared his driveway the day before.

“I figured the mail lady would appreciate it,” Fullerton said. “Got it done just in time.”

Fullerton said the mailwoman in his neighborhood had been unable to reach some mailboxes because the snow was piled up around them.

Fullerton had been off work all week because it was too difficult to get his van out to houses through the snow. Instead, he spent his time shoveling and preparing for his Super Bowl party on Sunday.

Mid-afternoon in the Old Southwest neighborhood, Danny Hill was hard at work digging a car out of the snow.

It wasn’t his car, though — Hill, a partner and manager of Log Hill Properties, which rents about 230 properties around Columbia, had tenants call because they were stranded in the snow. Hill drove his Chevrolet Avalanche to go help them out.

Hill estimated that he and his three business partners, Rob Hill, Eric Bowman and Greg Logsdon, had dug out 20 to 30 cars Wednesday and Thursday. Hill said he was on his fourth car of the day, with one more to go.

“We don’t mind helping,” Hill said. “We don’t expect this kind of weather, so we have to step up and help out our tenants in need.”

Hill borrowed his shovel from another tenant.

“Everybody’s pretty helpful — if it’s not being used, they know someone can use it,” he said.

Tenants at one property, Log Hill Run, had come together to dig each other out, and built some igloos, too, Hill said.

Hill guessed the current weather in Columbia is rare for about 95 percent of his tenants, so many were not prepared for it. He's from Texas but attended MU and has lived in Columbia on and off for eight years.

He said the shoveling kept him warm.

“If you keep busy it isn’t bad, but if you start standing around or get in the shade, it gets pretty rough,” he said.

Alex Spencer was out walking her dog, a Bichon-Poodle mix named Louis, in the Old Southwest. She said this was the first time she had left the house since Monday afternoon.

To fight the cold, she wore a hat, gloves, yoga pants, ski pants, a t-shirt, two sweatshirts, a winter coat and a large beige coat she said she called her husband’s “Fargo coat,” after the coat William H. Macy’s character wore in the 1996 film "Fargo."

Still, if she could do it over, Spencer said she would add boots, a scarf and another pair of gloves.

She said the snow covered the pipes in front of her home Tuesday night and the inside temperature dropped to about 55 degrees before her husband, Jim, shoveled off the pipes Wednesday morning, she said.

Spencer grew up in Pennsylvania but attended college in New Orleans and lived in San Francisco until she moved to Columbia in 2008.  She said this has been her third cold winter since she was 18.

It’s pretty, she said, but “I like it for a day, then I want it to be over.”

Wayne Fields had been shoveling his driveway in Old Southwest on and off for two days to alleviate some of the “cabin fever” he had been feeling.

He said he and a friend cleared off the top section yesterday, producing their own “Mount Everest” of snow in the process, and someone else used a snow blower on another part. He said he had been working on the lower portion and planned to finish the driveway Friday.

Fields said that with body heat going, the cold wasn’t too bad in the sunshine.

“There’s a whole different kind of uniqueness to winter,” he said, adding that he enjoyed the fresh air.

“This, however, is a bit much,” he said with a laugh, gesturing to the snow in front of his home.

Some saw the day as an opportunity to make a little cash. Monica King of Weatherwood Avenue has three children ages 3, 6 and 9. King told her oldest, Antory, that if he shoveled snow he could earn $5. 

"He was excited about $5," King said. 

But after his services were declined by a neighbor, King said he gave up. 

"He got disappointed after the first turn down," she said. 

MU sophomore Cooper Mittelhauser had the same idea. Mittelhauser made a $15 investment in a snow shovel Wednesday and had paid it off by the time he finished shoveling his first driveway.

“I’ve been riding my bicycle,” he said. “I’ve just been going up to doors that have snow all over the drive and just look like they’ve been needing help.”

Mittelhauser said he’s been asking for at least $10 for a normal-sized driveway, but most customers have been willing to pay $20. He said he hasn’t been able to shovel too many driveways yet.

“I’ve honestly only gotten a handful because it’s pretty slow work,” he said. “For every shovel-sized square you have to do two to three scoops.”

Although the work is slow, Mittelhauser said he'll probably venture out again after the next snow.

“I managed to get the snow shovel I bought yesterday paid off, so everything else is profit to me,” Mittelhauser said. “It’s definitely worth the time and it’s like getting paid to do exercise, so it’s not really bad at all.”

Because of the profitability of snow shoveling, Mittelhauser hopes to keep the market cornered.

“Don’t let everyone get too encouraged,” he joked. “I don’t want everyone taking my driveways."

Travis Wyrick, 15, and his 9-year-old sister, Morgan, spent Thursday afternoon shoveling for a different reason — to build an igloo. This was the third igloo Travis built this winter, but he had special plans for this one. He was building it on top of a hill and adding a tunnel on the side to sled out.

“It’s going to be like an igloo fun house,” Travis said.

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