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Late Winter Storms: The Dangers to Your Home

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Residents in the DMV have probably been thinking we escaped a harsh winter this year without any major snowstorms. But Mother Nature hates to let us get too complacent and decided to throw a mid-March snow storm our way. The main issue with a late season snowfall is the fact that the snow tends to be wet and heavy. With the below-freezing nighttime temperatures leading up to this event, the roads will be plenty cold to allow the wet snow to stick as well as refreeze on the surface, creating hazardous driving conditions. Around your home, there are a number of potential problems that can be caused by wet snow. One area is when wet snow sit on your roof. A couple of inches won't usually cause problems, but more than that will put undue stress on the roof shingles and trusses. The problem can be worse if your roof already has damaged areas. Flat roofs will be more prone to damage since the melting snow doesn't drain as well as it does on steeper pitched roofs. And if it rains on top of wet snow accumulation, it tends to get absorbed by the snow. Then below freezing temperatures overnight can lead to refreezing and even more weight and stress on your roof. Wet snow also causes a strain on your gutter system. Gutters are designed to channel rainwater away from your roof, down to the downspouts, and away from your home. But if heavy wet snow sits in the gutters, the weight could cause them to pull away from your home, or even fall down completely. If wet snow accumulates near the top of your downspouts and refreezes, this will cause a blockage where any water draining through your downspouts will back up. This can lead to the dreaded ice dams, where the water draining down your roof gets blocked behind the ice and refreezes. If you have large trees surrounding your home, heavy snow and ice can put a lot of weight on tree limbs. If any limbs are dead or weak, they can break off and damage your roof, windows, or siding. Downed trees, telephone poles, and power lines are also risks from heavy snow, leading to widespread power outages and blocked roads. Days ahead of this potential late-winter storm, be prepared. Stock up on essentials that will allow you to ride out the storm at home. Include non-perishable items in the event that you lose power, such as canned meats, peanut butter, granola bars, nuts, fresh fruit, and bottled water. Be sure to have fresh batteries for flashlights and a weather radio. Keep your cell phones charged, get necessary prescription medications refilled, and if you have a generator make sure it's gassed up and ready to go. Have snow removal tools like shovels, ice melt, and ice scrapers in a convenient location. If they're snowed in inside your garage or car, they won't do you any good.
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