More snow, more weight, and the value of roof rakes

This seemed like one of those winters that we were going to get off the hook when it came to cold and snow.  After a couple of minor snowfalls early in the season and a lack of excessive cold, I was getting optomistic!  February usually sees some moderating temperatures, and though March can bring in some pretty good snowfalls, the increasing warmth means the snow doesn’t hang around all that long.

Things deteriorated pretty quickly, though, when the last week of January brought with it headlines of a “potentially historic blizzard” aimed at Connecticut.  As the storm began to wind down, it was time for my son and I to grab the shovels and begin finding the driveway (and the cars in the driveway!).  Our home is  a raised ranch (or “split entry,” as we have heard this style referred to when we lived in other parts of the country), and sits on ledge, so the roof is up quite high.  Once we made it out to the road and had an angle that I could see the roof from, I was surprised to see hardly any snow on its north-facing side.  The reason for that became apparent when we were shoveling the snow off the back deck.  The south side of the roof had a good 4 feet of snow that had drifted onto it as it blew over the peak and sought shelter from the wind provided by the slope of the roof.

Seeing this depth of snow on the roof brought me back to my days living in northern Vermont when I was working on my meteorology degree (my degree is from Lyndon State College in Lyndonville, 10 miles north of St. Johnsbury).  My first year in Lyndonville saw the first substantial snowfall a few days before Thanksgiving, and we never saw the ground again until early May.  Since our meteorology instructors liked to keep us busy with numbers while giving some practical application along with it, I remember that we calculated the weight of the 3 feet of snow that had accumulated on a porch roof by late January.  We were amazed to find out that the weight came out to the equivalent of having a mid-sized car parked on the roof!

Nearly a week ago the southeastern part of Connecticut was greeted by snow, freezing rain, sleet and a changeover to rain at the coast, then back to snow.  This, on top of the previous week’s snow, is suspected to have contributed to a roof collapse at an apartment building in Montville.  Over the years, other collapses have occurred due to snow weight, the most famous in this state probably being that of the Hartford Civic Center roof on January 17, 1978 (nearly three weeks before the Blizzard of ’78 brought the really big snow of the year).

With another potentially big storm on the horizon and the possibility of mixed precip in areas of the state, I know our thoughts are going to be focused on getting the walk and driveway cleared out – AGAIN!  But just as important might be paying attention to an oft ignored snow problem, the weight of the accumulated snow on the roof.  We used these handy items in Vermont called “roof rakes,” basically a long pole with an aluminum blade on the end to drag the snow off the roof.  They are available in many hardware stores in Connecticut for around $40, and are definitely a good way to get the weight in snow of a mid-sized car off of your roof (and, it’s a lot safer than standing on a layer of ice and snow on a sloped roof).  Be safe out there during this upcoming storm!

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