Snow Removal Can Prevent Roof Collapse

January 24, 2016  //  


JIC news release header

Jan. 24, 2016
Contact: 804-371-7215

Snow Removal Can Prevent Roof Collapse

RICHMOND, Va. – State transportation and public safety officials continue their aggressive, around-the-clock response to this weekend’s winter storm. As storm cleanup continues, Virginians are encouraged to safely clear excess snow from roofs, decks and other areas of concern to prevent damage or collapse.

As of Sunday morning, Jan. 24, the state’s Emergency Operations Center had received multiple reports of collapsed or damaged buildings due to excessive snow and ice. For example, residents are sheltering in place following a partial collapse of a retirement home in Burke, Va. A shelter opened in Prince William County for 67 displaced residents from a collapsed apartment building. There was also a reported building collapse of the front wall of an empty strip-shopping center in Stafford County.

According to the National Weather Service, preliminary reports show some regions of Virginia received more than two feet of snow accumulation during this storm. Flat and low pitched roofs, most often found on industrial buildings, but also used in certain home designs, are at the greatest risk of buckling under heavy snow and ice accumulations. Also consider that barns and other agricultural buildings could present safety hazards to animals and humans.

For Homes
Most homes have sloped roofs; therefore, the risk posed by snow accumulations is less than a flat roof. If you have a flat roof on your home, pre-manufactured home or a portion of your home, monitor the ceiling. Look for the following signs of roof distress:

  • Sagging ceiling beneath the flat roof.
  • Leaking water dripping through the ceiling.
  • New cracks on your ceiling drywall or plaster.
  • Popping, cracking or creaking sounds.
  • Doors and/or windows that can no longer be opened or closed.

For Commercial Buildings
There are many variables, but most commercial buildings are designed to accommodate a roof snow load of 24 inches of dense, compacted snow. Pay attention to the following warning signs of roof distress:

  • Sagging roof members including steel bar joists, metal decking, wood rafters, wood trusses and plywood sheathing.
  • Leaking water dripping through the ceiling.
  • Popping, cracking and creaking sounds.
  • Sagging ceiling tiles and/or sagging sprinkler lines and sprinkler heads.
  • Doors and/or windows that can no longer be opened or closed.

Building Safety
If you notice one or more of the roof distress warning signs listed above, evacuate the home or building immediately.

Have a professional licensed contractor remove all snow from every roof surface, including roof overhangs and covered porches. Falls from roofs and possible exposure to electrical wires while on the roof are serious hazards.

Melting snow can create puddles of water, which poses a risk to roofs. Clear gutters, drains and downspouts of ice and debris so that water from melting snow has a path to flow away from the house or building. Clear snow and ice away from exhaust vents that go through exterior walls.

If your roof has collapsed, evacuate and call 911. If you see a collapsed building that has not been roped off, stay back and call 911. If you are concerned about the structural integrity of a building, contact a licensed structural engineer, building inspector or other qualified individual.

*Note: This information was gleaned from several sources, including this Federal Emergency Management Agency document (pdf) and the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services website.



Be ready. Be willing to help.

Virginia Disaster Relief Fund