Winter arrived early this year, with over six feet of snow already falling in Buffalo over a three-day period at the end of November. While snow can be a blessing for children who get to stay home from school and play all day, for the rest of us it means endless shoveling and snarled commutes. What’s worse, when blizzards get out of hand as they did in upstate New York, excessive snow can actually pose a danger to your house.
Snow on Your Roof
People in Buffalo scrambled after the storm to shovel not just their driveways, but their roofs as well. Why? Because snow is heavy, and too much of it can damage or even cave in a roof. The problem is particularly acute for flat roofs, but sloped roofs can be in danger as well, particularly if they are older or already damaged in places. The danger increases if it rains after heavy snow, because the snow already on the roof will just absorb the rain and prevent it from draining, adding even more weight. Homes in the snowier parts of the country are built to withstand up to 50 pounds per square foot of the pressure, but massive storms dropping six feet or more can exceed that threshold.
When the snow starts to melt off your roof, icicles can form, hanging down over the edges. They may look pretty, but they can be a major nuisance. For one thing, they block subsequent snowmelt from draining off the roof. This water can get dammed up behind the ice and eventually find its way inside your home instead, potentially causing a leak. Furthermore, the icicles themselves are sharp and heavy and when they break off they pose a danger to anyone walking below them. The best way to prevent icicles is to clear your roof of snow as quickly as possible.
Long-Term Power Outages
Major storms can knock out your power, and if the outages are widespread it could take the utility company days to get everyone back online. Make sure you are prepared for the lights to be out by stocking up on candles and flashlights, and try to make the best of it. It could be worse — if your stove, hot water heater and furnace are run on electricity, you’re in for serious trouble. It’s wise to have an emergency generator on-hand, but if you don’t have one you could find yourself eating cold canned food and piling up the sleeping bags and blankets. If cold temperatures persist, turn your faucets on to a drip to try to prevent frozen pipes. If necessary, evacuate the house and seek shelter somewhere warm for the duration of the outage.