More Big Snow Could Create Roof Issues

by | Feb 2, 2015

While Auburn fell into the “jackpot zone” for snowfall from the blizzard of 2015, surprisingly few incidents affected our area.  The statewide travel ban kept drivers at home allowing DPW crews to effectively clear and treat roads.  Light, fluffy snow helped avoid widespread power outages, and also made it a bit easier for residents to clear driveways, sidewalks and cars.

Unfortunately, weather-wise, we are not out of the woods.  Cold temperatures are on the way, with nighttime temps forecast in the single digits and even below zero in spots.  This will lead to freezing of melted snow and slush remaining on roads, driveways and sidewalks.   Further, additional light snow is forecast for Friday, and a potentially more powerful storm for Sunday night into Monday.

The snow for Monday is expected to accumulate 8-12 inches, perhaps more. This seems like small potatoes after the reported 36” Auburn received this week, but added to the existing snow cover, we could be facing a situation reminiscent of 2011, where hundreds of structural failures were reported across the state. That winter, the $1.99 Fabric Store on Southbridge St. had a partial roof collapse. A building at Interstate Battery on Rt. 20 also collapsed, and the Heritage Plaza was closed for a time while crews cleared snow from the roofs there after some structural concerns were identified there.

This storm is expected to drop more light fluffy snow, but Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency is sharing some precautions certain commercial and residential property owners should take with snow poling high on roofs and around drains.

“Flat, commercial roofs are most susceptible if they are not draining properly” states Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Director Kurt Schwartz. “Additionally, MEMA encourages residents to clear storm drains in their neighborhoods to minimize local flooding problems from any run-off.”

In many cases, roof ice dams can form causing water build-up, leading to interior damage.

To minimize the risk of over-stressing a building roof due to accumulated or drifting snow:

  • Be on the alert for large accumulating snow build-up or snowdrifts on your roofs, particularly roofs that are flat on only have a slight pitch, as on garages, car ports or porches.
  • If roof snow can be removed, from the ground, with the use of a snow rake (available at most hardware stores), do so. Use caution, as metal snow rakes conduct electricity if they come into contact with a power line.
  • Try to avoid working from ladders, as ladder rungs tend to ice up.  Snow and ice collect on boot soles, and metal ladders.
  • Flat roofs can be shoveled clear, but only if it is determined that the roof is safe to stand upon. Exercise care when on the roof to avoid potentially dangerous falls.
  • Flat roof drainage systems should be kept clear to minimize the risk of excess roof ponding in the event of subsequent heavy rainfall or melting.
  • Large icicles can form on roof overhangs, but do not necessarily mean ice damming is occurring. Icicles overhanging doorways and walkways can be dangerous and should be carefully removed.
  • All of the mentioned actions should only be performed by able-bodied adults, as the snow is heavy, and roofs and other surfaces may be slippery. Protective headgear and eye protection is recommended.
  • Clear storm drains along the curb.  Give water a better place to go than your cellar.
  • Also, make sure your neighborhood fire hydrants are cleared and accessible.