Is Your Roof Safe From Snow Collapse?

By Bill Hudson, WCCO-TV

EAGAN, Minn. (WCCO) — With a shovel in hand, Jose Salazar has all he can handle, scraping and heaving away three feet of drifted snow from an Eagan rooftop. He’s supervising one of 10 crews that Sela Roofing has working all around the Twin Cities, dealing with heavy snow and ice dams.

But they’re not alone. Just a few doors away, it’s the same old problem but with a different technique. Crews with Lindus Construction are using a hose blasting 300 degree steam to remove a large ice dam.

“Those ice chunks when picked up they’ve got to be 30 or 40 pounds. So just one piece, imagine how much is really up there,” said James Brandt.

All that weight adds up and often with devastating consequences. So far this season we’ve seen it with the collapse of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, home of the Minnesota Vikings.

In December, an animal shelter near Baldwin, Wis. lost it’s covered pet run under the weight of deep snow.

Engineering firms say they’re seeing structural collapses affecting both gabled roofs and flat ones.

That’s why beginning in the mid-70s, Minnesota building codes imposed strict standards on building designers and contractors to build structures to withstand extreme snow loads.

“Typically 35 pounds per square foot is the design load, and in northern Minnesota it’s slightly higher,” said Joseph Cain, a structural engineer with the firm Mattson, Macdonald and Young in Minneapolis.

Cain says that’s roughly equivalent to the weight of about 6 feet of snow. However, there are many variables in calculating the safe limits such as the density of the snowpack and its moisture content.

Still, concern is growing over the structural integrity of older structures, including buildings with flat or slightly gabled roofs as well as parking ramps. The concrete structures are not designed to have large piles of snow piled up in concentrated areas.

“When they plow sometimes the snow gets concentrated in large piles which isn’t a good idea. I don’t think they’re typically designed for that,” said Cain.

More from Bill Hudson
  • rick

    person in the photo is in OSHA violation

  • Pate

    Little snow on my roof right now.It’s steeply=pitched,with prominent sun exposure and no overhanging eaves.BTW,I wish WCCo would cease and desist with these annoying pop-up ads at the bottom of the screen.So annoying!

  • Ice victim

    I would definitely check your policy!!!
    I’m still dealing with a ice dam insurance claim from last year. Four rooms gutted, not fun!!!
    The insurance adjuster did more damage than the ice!!!

    I recommend to everyone..CLEAR THE SNOW / ICE as soon as you can!!!!

    • roofer here

      How did an insurance adjuster do “more damage” than the ice? This is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out there. lol
      I’m a contractor (roofing) and was an adjuster for over 20 years. This is a new one to me – never heard this claim before.
      This stuff is getting heavy as it packs up and no doubt just the start of more problems ahead. These ice dams are creeping up farther and farther – steamed a steeper 9/12 that had a dam up 10′-12′ above the gutters. At the peak it was an inch – at the gutters 8-14″. Never seen them like this. Be safe folks

  • Tom

    Big T
    Ice victim has the best advice. CLEAR THE SNOW / ICE as soon as you can!!!!
    I’m a roofing contractor and see this quite often where homeowners wait till water starts coming in the house before calling someone or doing something about it. This year the compacted snow on the roofs is acting like ice dams all over the roof instead of just down by the gutters like in a normal ice dam year.
    Water just can’t get by all that compacted snow once it starts to melt. We’ve been kinda lucky because the temps have been below freezing so far but once it goes above 32f my phone really starts ringing because the water starts pouring in the houses with ice dams & compacted snow.Just a word to the wise… Clear the snow & ice now and save yourself problems down the road. Could be a long winter.Have a nice winter. BIG T

  • Mike

    It is also very important to let your attic breath and keep those roof vents open. If they are covered by snow your attic will develop moisture that will dampen your joists, ceilings and insulation that could lead to thousands of dollars to replace. You can buy roof rakes with extensions at most hardware outlets for about $35.

  • Eartha

    Eagan roofs may collapse due to shoddy construction in that burb. The 1920s urban homes need not worry.

    • Mac

      maybe. maybe not.
      Be careful when making a broad statement like this. I’ve repaired more structural damage to pre-1940 homes than post war.
      Many factors are usually involved.
      Old homes have better lumber – that’s a given. They also have settled like crazy so stress is issue

  • Is Your Roof Safe From Snow Collapse? « CBS Minnesota

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  • sniffdog

    99.999% of rooms are safe. What steaming pile this story is…how can these clowns keep their jobs at CCO?

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