When a death occurs in the winter it is a perfectly natural question for a family to ask if it will affect the ground burial of their loved one. The answer depends on the location of the cemetery. Most cemeteries in the country today have the technology to dig a grave in all kinds of conditions. Those in the northern climates may experience difficulty in getting through the frozen ground. I work near the 40th parallel and every cemetery at which I have worked have been able to take care of every burial with no problem.
Normally a grave is dug with a backhoe, but if the ground is hard, it can put additional stress on the expensive machine. In that case, the frozen ground can be broken up with a jack hammer. Unfortunately, depending on how far down the ground is frozen, it can take 3 or 4 hours additional to dig the grave with this method. There is another method that makes the process a much quicker one.
That method is by the use of a grave warmer. The device, which looks like half an industrial storage barrel, is made of steel, measuring about 8 feet by 4 feet. It is then filled with around 130 pounds of charcoal, lit, and surrounded with sand or some other material to make sure that the fire is contained within the unit. Once it is secured, the unit can be left on the grave area for a period of about 24 hours. Once the time has passed, the unit is removed and the backhoe can dig the grave just as it would in the warmer weather. All this not only saves the wear on the backhoe, but it saves labor hours and is safer than jack hammer operation. The unit can be fired up with a propane tank, but the cost is more expensive than charcoal.
So graveside services can be carried out in severely cold winter weather. Usually the cemetery will clear a path the the grave, and clear the area of deep snow so that the mourners are not standing in cold snow. There is little need anymore for temporary storage due to frozen ground.
Material for this article came from a story in the Dakota County Star. To read the article CLICK HERE.