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With Rain on the Way, MEMA Warns of Roof Collapse, Flooding Potential

Safety tips to protect yourself from the dangers of snow buildup with heavy rains

Heavy rain, following snowfall can increase potential for a roof collapse if snow builds up. Patch File Photo
Heavy rain, following snowfall can increase potential for a roof collapse if snow builds up. Patch File Photo

By Liz Taurasi

Rain is in the forecast and while it will certainly wash away some of the snow, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency officials are warning residents and business owners to clear snow from your roofs to avoid the possibility of collapse, and clear storm drains to minimize local flooding - both of which can happen with rain following the amount of snow many locations had from the storm.

“With the addition of rain in the immediate forecast, dry, fluffy snow piled on roofs can act as a sponge, absorbing any additional moisture, adding weight and stress to structures if not cleared.” said Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Director Kurt Schwartz in a statement released Saturday.  “Flat, commercial roofs are most susceptible if they are not draining properly.  Additionally, MEMA encourages citizens to clear storm drains in their neighborhoods to minimize local flooding problems from any run-off.”

Residents should also be aware that ice dams on roofs can cause water build-up with lead to interior damage, according to MEMA officials.

To minimize the risk of over-stressing a building roof due to accumulated or drifting snow, MEMA officials offer these guidelines:

  • 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.

For additional information about MEMA and Winter Preparedness, go to www.mass.gov/mema. You can also follow MEMA updates onTwitterFacebook and YouTube.

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