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Caring for Tennis Courts Following a Winter Storm

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The January ice storm that hit Atlanta last week put a number of things into perspective.  The fear of not having enough food for the family or formula for the baby caused many Atlanta residents serious concern while others worried about the possible loss of power or how emergency vehicles might help were a fire to occur somewhere in the neighborhood.

Atlanta tennis players had other issues on their mind. Damn the lack of bread, milk and baby formula…no tennis for several days and the possible cancellation of league matches was the true crisis at hand.  How in the world would we free our ice encapsulated courts in time for weekend tennis???

The reality is there are some practices that are acceptable for removing snow and ice from tennis courts and there are definite no-no’s.  The purpose of this article is to highlight this important information so we know what to do and what not to do during the next snow/ice storm.

There are several removal techniques that will cause PERMANENT DAMAGE to the courts.  A few days without tennis, while admittedly horrifying, is much preferred to the alternative of damaging the courts removing the snow and ice.

Things to avoid:

1.  Do not use any metal tools to chip remove ice.  All metal shovels and pick axes can chip the asphalt as well as scraping the grit and paint from the court.  All of these actions can cause permanent damage and possibly render the courts unplayable on a long-term basis.

2.  Do not use rock salt or other chemical de-icers as they are harsh and can damage the asphalt court.

3.  While anti-freeze, windshield de-icer and even fertilizer are known to melt ice, using them on the court can potentially be hazardous as these chemicals can be transferred from the court to the balls, to our hands and possibly be ingested or get into eyes causing severe illness or even blindness.

So what can be done?

1.  Plastic shovels (no metal tips!) can be used to remove loose snow and ice.  Getting the wintry precipitation off quickly will allow the sun to begin melting the courts as soon as possible.

2.  Remove wind screens which will help expose the courts to maximum sunlight.

3.  Continue monitoring the courts and removing the loose ice as the sun works its natural magic.

4.  Patience…patience…patience.

If you are desperate enough, natural isopropyl rubbing alcohol can be used to melt ice without damaging the asphalt.  Given the quantities likely needed, this is an expensive option.   It might possibly be worth the cost if you decide to ignite the alcohol with a match after applying it to the ice.  The downside is the flames may melt the fencing and burn down the windscreens, but it is by far the most visually spectacular solution.  Of course the rubbing alcohol without the flame is equally as effective, so it is probably best to leave your matches at home even though it is tempting to find out if your local Fire and Rescue can access the neighborhood next time an ice storm strikes.

5 thoughts on “Caring for Tennis Courts Following a Winter Storm

  1. Boris Becker on said:

    As there are portable blowers, there should be a portable heat blower.

  2. Ben W. on said:

    Would it be bad for the court to pour hot-boiling water on them? In my mind it wouldn’t be all that cheap or easy, but better that alcohol, but I’m thinking that the heat could be bad for the court, or it might just turn into ice.

  3. GGTennis on said:

    I suppose it would depend on the temperature. My thought is that it would most likely re-ice.

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