Nevada County’s Building Department is advising residents and businesses to monitor buildings and roofs for signs of excessive snow loads. With significant rain in the forecast, it will be possible for the snow to act as a sponge absorbing the moisture and posing additional stress to roof structures.
“We’ve started to see damage to outdoor structures and several commercial buildings with collapsed roofs due to the heavy snow loads,” said Nevada County’s Building Director George Schureck. “With the possibility of rain and snow freezing and increasing the weight on structures, residents should be aware of the warning signs as it becomes dangerous.”
Potential danger signs include:
- cracks in walls
- sagging floors
- hard to open doors or windows
- displaced columns
- cracking or dropping arches
- bulging walls
- water/smoke that pushes through masonry.
If there is any doubt about the integrity of a roof, evacuate the building and immediate area until professional advice can be sought. Residents and business owners should use caution if trying to clear heavy snow from roofs to prevent injuries from falling snow, roof damage from improper snow removal, and electrical hazards. For information regarding licensed professionals, contact the Nevada County Contractors’ Association (NCCA) or the Contractors’ Association of Truckee-Tahoe (CATT). Both provide a database of local and reliable licensed contractors.
Structures with low-sloped or flat roofs, manufactured homes, carports, trellises, and patio covers, or buildings constructed before California adopted snow-load standards in the early 1960s may be more susceptible to increased snow loads. Roofs with geometric irregularities and obstructions collect snow drifts in an unbalanced pattern, creating unstable conditions. These types of roofs include flat roofs with parapets, stepped roofs, saw-tooth roofs, and roofs with obstructions such as HVAC equipment or chimneys.
Carbon monoxide poisoning and gas leaks can also be prevented by monitoring structures for damage or obstructions. Chimneys and vents should be checked for ice and snow build-up, and generators used for backup power should be placed outdoors to provide the proper ventilation for carbon monoxide. Snowpacks can damage gas pipes, valves, and tanks, leading to leaks. If the scent of gas is detected, call 911 immediately.