Roofs buckling under snow and ice strain

February 17, 2014

At one building on Main Street in Lambertville, construction workers spent the morning bracing the porch roof which had begun to sag under the weight of snow and ice.

"This is all temporary supports," contractor Mike Myers told Action News. "We're getting everything put back so it keeps it up there so we can get the snow off the roof. We can't even get up on the roof and get the snow off till we get everything supported underneath."

Eventually, when it was safe enough, workers with ice picks and shovels climbed the ladder to the roof and cleared away the ice and snow before the next storm can do more damage.

At the Fulper farm in West Amwell, the weight of accumulating snow brought down a 50 foot section of roof on a pole barn where cows were waiting to be milked.

"Snowing and snow and ice and then the rain the other night actually added enough weight to the building here to make it collapse," farmer Rob Fulper said. "Cows were trapped in, about eight of them. We got 6 out and the fire company came and cut the last two out."

Houses are usually built to hold a snow load of 40 pounds per square foot. But roofer Mike Strober expect lots of homes are going to have trouble because of the ice and snow buildup.

With flat roofs, the snow can't slide off and the weight stresses the structure.

A pitched roof will let snow slide, but if gutters are frozen solid it can lead to trouble.

"(When) the snow and ice freeze at the bottom of your roof, it prevents the water from coming off the roof," according to roofing contractor gMike Strober. "So if it doesn't come off, it goes back some underneath the shingles and goes inside the building."

Jill Cavanaugh of Lambertville told Action News: "We have a small roof on the back that we've always been cautious of when we've gotten too much snow or rain."

A backed-up gutter on Coryell Street in Lambertville prompted one man to apply fire to ice. Helping a friend who's out of town, he was using a blowtorch to try to melt a stretch of sidewalk that's turned into an ice rink.

"It's leaking... from the gutter," Bill Thum of Delano said. "We're trying to get the ice up. This is the best way because it's 4 inches thick here."

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