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Despite Warm Weather, Roof Woes Continue

Updated: 03/10/2014 5:28 PM
Created: 03/10/2014 5:09 PM WDIO.com
By: Maarja Anderson

Many homeowners have tried to stay on top of the growing loads of snow on their roofs, but this winter has made it tough. 

On any given street in Duluth, you'll find flat roofs, steep roofs, traditional roofs, and a lot of snowy roofs. But no matter the roof, it's been a tough winter for homeowners.

"This is the worst one, absolutely the worst one," said Mike Beery in front of his Duluth home.

Even with a fairly steep roof, Beery's chimney held up a three-foot drift. Then, the melting began.

"There is too much snow. We had an ice dam on the roof. [It was] a good six feet wide and a foot thick," said Beery.

They got the ice dam removed last week.

This extreme winter has structural engineers over at UMD talking.

"There's been some recent roof failure, which has kind of brought to light the effect snow can have on structures," said Mary Christiansen, an assistant professor in the Civil Engineering Department at UMD.

Christiansen and her colleague, Rania Al-Hammoud, say homes and buildings here are built to live in Duluth. As structural engineers, they determine how much snow a roof in the Northland needs to be able to hold.

They use a map that shows average ground snow in a given region. That number is then used as a basis for calculating how much snow would be on a roof.

"When we design for roof snow load we consider it about 80% of the ground snow load," explained Al-Hammoud.

The structures are then designed to that standard, but this winter has been anything but standard. It's been extreme, say the experts.

"It might be higher than what is typically expected or what it was designed for," said Christiansen. 

They advise to remove the snow while you can, and homeowners like Beery seem to agree.

"I think it's better to invest a couple of hundred dollars right now rather than a couple of thousand dollars on having a roof replaced," he said.

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