Effects on human society
A snow blockade in southern Minnesota, US in 1881
Substantial snowfall can disrupt public infrastructure and services, slowing human activity even in regions that are accustomed to such weather. Air and ground transport may be greatly inhibited or shut down entirely. Populations living in snow-prone areas have developed various ways to travel across the snow, such as skis, snowshoes, and sleds pulled by horses, dogs, or other animals and later, snowmobiles. Basic utilities such as electricity, telephone lines, and gas supply can also fail. In addition, snow can make roads much harder to travel and vehicles attempting to use them can easily become stuck.
The combined effects can lead to a "snow day" on which gatherings such as school, work, or church are officially canceled. In areas that normally have very little or no snow, a snow day may occur when there is only light accumulation or even the threat of snowfall, since those areas are unprepared to handle any amount of snow. In some areas, such as some states in the United States, schools are given a yearly quota of snow days (or "calamity days"). Once the quota is exceeded, the snow days must be made up. In other states, all snow days must be made up. For example, schools may extend the remaining school days later into the afternoon, shorten spring break, or delay the start of summer vacation.
Accumulated snow is removed to make travel easier and safer, and to decrease the long-term impact of a heavy snowfall. This process utilizes shovels, snowplows and is often assisted by sprinkling salt or other chloride-based chemicals, which reduce the melting temperature of snow. In areas with abundant snowfall, such as Northern Japan, people harvest snow and store it surrounded by insulation in ice houses. This allowed the ice to be used in summer for refrigeration or medical uses, which is one method of conserving electrical usage.
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