Winter Storm Jonas: How Washington DC-Area Residents Can Protect Their Homes from Heavy Snow & Ice

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DC-area residents should rake their roofs or get professional roof snow removal to avoid damage caused by Winter Storm Jonas, according to Joe Palumbo, president Ice Dam Guys, LLC.

Roof snow can cause collapses, ice dams, and leaks

Roof snow can cause collapses, ice dams, and leaks

In conditions like these homeowners face two big concerns. The first is the threat of ice dams, which can cause massive leaks inside area homes. The second danger is the possibility of a roof collapse.

DC residents are expecting an uncharacteristic level of snow this weekend. The National Weather Service issued a Blizzard Warning for the area at 10:09 Friday morning, indicating that 18 to 24 inches or more of wet, heavy snow are expected to fall over the entire metro area. This storm will be accompanied by high winds.

In conditions like these homeowners face two big concerns. The first is the threat of ice dams, which can cause massive leaks inside area homes. The second danger is the possibility of a roof collapse.

To prevent the possibility of ice dams and/or roof collapses, residents should get the snow off of their roofs as soon as it is safe to do so.

The 7-day forecast for the DC area indicates the optimum conditions for both kinds of damage. Beginning on Sunday, highs are expected to range into the mid-thirties to mid-forties, but lows are expected to plunge as low as 13° some nights. That means roof snow will repeatedly melt and re-freeze throughout the week. Ice dams will almost certainly form, especially because many DC-area homes lack adequate insulation in their attics. This means a homeowner’s roof deck is likely to warm, accelerating the melting and freezing cycles.

An ice dam is a wall of ice that forms along gutters and overhangs. Melting snow gets trapped behind this wall, where it pools up and eventually works its way beneath the shingles. When this happens, roofs begins to leak, exposing the inside of homes to water damage, structural damage, as well as the risk of forming mold, mildew, and other harmful forms of surface fungi.

Ice on the roof contributes to the danger of a collapse. Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) suggests that one inch of ice equals roughly one foot of snow. A foot of snow can be a serious hazard on its own, however, weighing in at 12 lbs. to 23.76 lbs. per square foot of roof, depending upon how wet it is.

Homeowners with a 2,237 square-foot roof (which is about average for a DC-area roof) could see at least 40,226 lbs. of weight overhead, even before one adds ice into the equation. According to Joe Palumbo, president of Ice Dam Guys, LLC, "That is the equivalent of parking 13 Toyota Priuses on top of a home."

High winds exacerbate conditions further. Snow tends to collect wherever the roof meets an exterior wall, forming drifts that double or even triple this weight in a single spot.

Palumbo states that homeowners have two options for removing snow from their roof: use a roof rake specially designed for this purpose, or call a roof-snow removal service.

Raking snow off the roof will be difficult due to the sheer volume and weight of the expected snow. A homeowner committed to raking may have to venture outside several times during the storm in order to clear the roof effectively. Choose a time when visibility is good, and keep your feet flat on the ground while carefully pulling small sections of snow off the roof and onto the ground.

If it is not safe to get outside, or if it’s difficult to reach large portions of the roof, it may be better to call a professional snow removal service or ice dam removal service. However, doing the best you can with a roof rake is far better than doing nothing at all.

Homeowners who see icicles should be especially vigilant, opting to call for help as soon as possible. Icicles are an early warning sign that ice dams have begun to form.

Rooftop snow removal services typically cost between $275 and $475 an hour from a properly insured company, a low price compared to the costs of repairing the potential damage caused to your home as a result of roof leaks and roof collapses.

Roof collapses can also prove fatal to people inside the building, which is another reason to consider hiring a roof-snow removal professional. Those who want to save money might opt for a combination of raking as much of the roof themselves as possible, and hiring professional help to remove only what they cannot do themselves.

According to Palumbo, "It's better to deal with the snow on your roof now than to deal with news cameras or insurance adjusters later."

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Joe Palumbo

Joe Palumbo
since: 04/2011
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