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Precautions urged to avoid damage from snow-covered roofs

WILLMAR -- With yet another round of snow piling up, Kandiyohi County Emergency Management has issued tips on safety precautions for reducing the risk of snow and ice damage to homes, outbuildings and farm buildings. Reports are emerging of roof ...

Sharon Bomstad / TribuneExperts recommend preventing snow from piling up and clearing snow off the roof between storms to minimize the chances of a roof collapse. Trouble spots can exist anywhere snow can become trapped and accumulate, such as on these uneven portions of the roof.
Sharon Bomstad / Tribune Experts recommend preventing snow from piling up and clearing snow off the roof between storms to minimize the chances of a roof collapse. Trouble spots can exist anywhere snow can become trapped and accumulate, such as on these uneven portions of the roof.

WILLMAR - With yet another round of snow piling up, Kandiyohi County Emergency Management has issued tips on safety precautions for reducing the risk of snow and ice damage to homes, outbuildings and farm buildings.

Reports are emerging of roof collapses in some areas of Minnesota that have been hit hardest by snow.

Experts recommend preventing snow from piling up and clearing snow off the roof between storms to minimize the chances of a roof collapse.

The Emergency Management office recommends a safety check of all buildings, including sheds and garages. Any vent pipes on the roof also should be kept clear of snow.

Trouble spots can exist anywhere snow can become trapped and accumulate: around a chimney, on uneven portions of the roof, around the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system and other large features. This can cause portions of the roof to weaken under the extra load of snow.

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When temperatures go above and below freezing, snow on the roof turns to ice and becomes more compact. This is also a prime way for ice dams to develop. Ice dams may reach the eaves of the roofline and prevent snow from shedding naturally. They also can cause roof leaks.

Most roofs are built to hold up to 20 pounds per square foot before straining under the load. As a rule of thumb, 10 to 12 inches of fresh snow equates to 1 inch of water, or 5 pounds per square foot. A roof can hold up to 4 feet of snow before problems develop but this threshold can be lower if there is existing snow or ice before a fresh accumulation of snow.

Three to 5 inches of old packed snow equates to 1 inch of water, or 5 pounds per square foot. A roof holding two or more feet of old snow could be under great stress.

One inch of ice equates to 1 foot of fresh snow. An inch of ice weighs about 5 pounds per square foot and poses the most risk to roofs because its thin and hard-to-see layers add considerable weight.

Properly clearing ice and snow from natural gas meters can reduce the chance of a natural gas buildup indoors.

Safety officials recommend keeping the entire meter assembly free of snow and ice. If snow has collected on and around the meter, gently remove it from the meter and any associated piping. Shovel carefully around the meter and move snow away from it. Avoid using a snowblower near a meter.

There should always be a clear path to the gas meter to allow quick access in case of an emergency. Gas meters should be checked regularly throughout the winter to ensure they are free of ice and snow, especially if they are exposed to melting precipitation.

A final precaution: Valuable time can be lost if there's a fire and firefighters have to shovel snow to find the nearest hydrant. Fire hydrants should be kept clear of snow at all times to ensure quick access in an emergency.

Related Topics: WEATHER
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