BANGOR, Maine — With up to 7 inches of snow expected to start falling in Maine on Sunday and a thick layer of frozen precipitation already down, some local snow removal experts say people should try to lighten the load on their roofs.
“That is too much water,” Archie Maloon, a former home builder who has nearly 30 years of experience with snow and ice removal, said on Friday as he and his nephew cleared snow from roofs in the Dover-Foxcroft area. “The problem is the weight. An inch of ice is probably equal to a foot of snow or better.”
Eddington resident David Linacher of EMS snow removal said typically people worry about melting roof snow, which can cause ice dams that allow water to get into the house.
“Pretty much right now it’s the weight people need to worry about,” said Linacher, who said he has 20 years of experience and works with a crew of local men. “It will cave in if it’s too heavy.”
“If we get another 8 to 12 inches, it’s probably going to be crazy trying to keep up with that,” he said, referring to clearing the snow off roofs.
People who own mobile homes should take extra precautions because those types of buildings have less support in the roof, Maloon said.
Andrew Sankey, director of the Hancock County Emergency Management Agency, said snow weights are a problem with all the recent precipitation but people need to use common sense when deciding whether to go up on the roof.
“That is an issue and people need to be attentive to that,” he said. “One of the changes [this season] is that they typically use roof rakes, and with the ice this year — that [roof rake] is not going to work.”
Emergency management personnel don’t want people up on their icy roofs “trying to attempt the impossible,” Sankey said. “I don’t think our snow totals have reached the stress levels. Newer homes — they’re built to withstand a 100-year snow load.”
Older buildings that were not built to those standards should be checked to ensure they are handling the weight, Sankey said.
Construction standards for snow loads in Maine are set by the state and range from between 50 pounds per square foot to 100, with Portland at 60, Bangor at 80 and Ashland and other Aroostook County communities at 100.
Much of the state is seeing record levels of snowfall with more expected the second half of the weekend, Rich Norton, meteorologist for the weather service in Caribou, said Friday.
“Bangor currently has a snow depth of 9 inches. They have a cumulative snowfall of 19.6 inches” for the season, Norton said. “There is a potential for that [amount] to be on the roof as well, if it’s a fairly flat area.
“Caribou has seen 40.3 inches of snow since Dec. 1 and … as of 7 a.m. this morning we have 20 inches on the ground,” Norton added.
Caribou typically sees 12.6 inches of snow in December and Bangor usually receives about 7.5 inches.
Exactly how much snow Maine will get Sunday is dependent on the path of the incoming weather system, according to forecaster Chris Kindle at the weather service’s Gray office.
The areas of the state heaviest hit by recent storms are preparing for additional snowfall, said Sankey. The light, fluffy stuff is what he is hoping will arrive, but he’s preparing for the kind of heavy wet stuff that brings down power lines.
“That is why we’re staying open,” he said of the shelter at the Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School.
The state is also expected to experience a “very short-lived” warm front on Saturday that may start melting the snow and ice.
“We’re going to get up to around 32 [degrees] in the Bangor area, 33ish in Brewer and 33 to 37 down to the coast,” said Norton, who said the roof on his century-old abode is already leaking. “Mine is already leaking and we haven’t seen anything [above freezing] in a long time. If you have a nice sunny day and your roof is facing south, it could start melting.”
Once roof snow starts melting, it can cause ice dams and once these ice dams form, the melted snow that pools up behind them can push up roof shingles and create leaks that enter homes and damage them.
Maloon suggested that homeowners and those hired to remove snow and ice from roofs take extra precautions.
“The ice is heavy,” he said by phone as he was finishing up the third roof cleaning of the day. “It has a higher moisture content compared to snow. And when you’re on the roof you have to be careful. It’s incredibly dangerous and if you slip, there is no way you are going to hold on.”
The ice is so thick this year that he is using flaked calcium chloride to cut through the thick stuff. He reminded residents not to use ice picks, because they could damage the roof.
Because of the thick layer of ice, even getting up on the roof is a challenge, Maloon said.
“It’s hard, because it’s so tough just to get up on it,” he said. “You have to punch a hole for your foot [hold]. It’s just like grease on pig.”
For snow removal safety tips, visit http://www.disastersafety.org/blog/how-to-safely-remove-snow-on-your-roof/.
Reuters contributed to this story.