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    Mayo Clinic Minute: Snowblower safety

Much of the nation is bracing for a massive winter storm that is working its way eastward across the country. Over the next few days, the storm is expected to bring heavy snow and blizzard conditions in the North, with sleet, freezing rain and thunderstorms across the South. Portions of the upper Midwest could see close to 2 feet of snow.

With that in mind, you might want to get that snowblower fueled up. Dr. Sanj Kakar, a Mayo Clinic orthopedic hand and wrist surgeon, says you may want to review your snowblower safety tips at the same time.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

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Shoveling snow by hand is time-consuming and often tough on your back. Using a snowblower makes things much quicker and easier, but it comes with risks.

"Since 2003, there's been 9,000 Americans who have injured their hand from a snowblower," Dr. Kakar says. "And most of the times, these are amputations – so significant injuries where they lose at least one or more fingers."

Dr. Kakar says many of those injuries happen when the chute gets clogged with heavy, wet snow and people stick their hand in the machine to unclog it.

But he says most people don't realize you can still injure your hand even when you turn the snowblower off.

"It's still actually captured that kinetic rotational energy in the system," Dr. Kakar explains. "So the snowblower is actually off, and, so, you think you're safe. But you put your hand in there, [and] that energy is still stored in the machine. And as soon as you clear the snow or a rock, it captures your hand with the glove, and pulls it in and causes your injury."

He's even seen wrist injuries when people use a stick to unclog a snowblower.

That's why he says the safest thing to do if your snowblower gets clogged is to go back to the old-fashioned snow shovel to finish clearing the driveway and let the clog melt out on its own.

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