With rain in the upcoming forecast and a large amount of un-melted snow on local roofs, the potential for damage and/or collapse of structures is increased during the next few days. As a public safety reminder, the Bucks County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) advises residents to monitor conditions related to the structural integrity of buildings. Throughout the region, there have been instances in which roofs have buckled under the weight of snow and ice.
“If rain falls on the standing snow and ice, it may have an effect like a sponge and absorb all of the moisture, making the load on a building heavier,” stated Bucks County Emergency Services Director Scott T. Forster. “While it is dangerous for owners to remove snow from a roof by climbing on it, snow rakes that reach a sloped roof from the ground are a possible solution for those who are concerned about the weight. This should only be performed by a professional contractor to prevent injury and damages to the roof.”
While most commercial and residential roofs are designed to handle loads in excess of what currently exists on rooftops, the current snowpack and potential for additional precipitation does increase the risk of collapses or other structural damage to properties.
Large, flat roofs are at greatest risk, especially those that are not properly draining. Property owners should be attentive to excessive snow accumulation, ice dams, and poor drainage on rooftops. For flat roofs with an existing ponding problem; a professional should be called to check the snow load and advise for the snow removal procedure if required. Note: Ponding is the collection of water which usually indicates a structural problem that can worsen with weight.
Homeowners and building owners who have concerns about excessive loads and/or the structural integrity of a property should contact a professional/licensed contractor for assistance. Removing snow from a rooftop can be extremely dangerous, so it is best to rely on professionals. As in any public safety emergency, if there is an imminent danger, residents should call 911.
A link to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) guidelines for snow load safety is available here: