Weather Forecast


Ice giving headaches to homeowners

John Graham shovels snow off a rooftop. Business has been brisk with a foot of new snow in January, followed by numerous freeze-thaw cycles. The forecast is expected to drop to semi-normal winter ranges by this weekend, with temps dropping below zero at night. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

The ice dams cometh.

Warming temperatures may be good for the soul, but they're a pain on the roof.

From the Metrodome to downtown main streets, including Park Rapids, roofs, porches and awnings are falling victim to mounds of winter snow.

That's only part of the hazard.

"We've had several calls of people falling off their roofs," acknowledged a Cass County dispatcher, including a man in Walker who fell this past weekend clearing snow from a roof.

Hubbard County has had no such reported incidents, authorities say. But emergency officials are gearing up for slips and falls on icy sidewalks, driveways and streets.

Ice is causing John Graham to have one of the biggest winters of his professional life.

He's a snow removal expert.

"I had five calls this morning about water dripping into homes," said the owner of Graham Outdoors Monday mid-morning. He'd already been in Nevis, stopped for a brief roof clearing in Park Rapids and was heading for Detroit Lakes.

January was a hectic month. "We did 70 houses, worked 22 days straight," he said, "The phones have been ringing off the wall. Busy is good."

According to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Office of Energy Security, Ice dams occur when heat leaks into the attic and melts the underside of the snow on the roof.

"The melted snow then flows down the roof surface until it reaches a cold spot (such as the eaves or soffit) where it forms a frozen dam, behind which more snow melt and ice pile up. The ice build-up can back up under the shingles, damaging them and allowing water to leak to the ceilings and walls below."

Graham says it's that warm air penetration into the upper reaches of homes, even new construction, that prompt calls to his business.

And, while "there's too many kids out there with shovels," he recommends having an insured contractor do the work.

Many homeowners' insurance policies won't pay damages if a neighbor or friend does the work and gets injured, he said.

And using the right materials prevents damages to structures and roofs.

Graham said he only uses plastic shovels and rakes to minimize damage to shingles. He also uses potassium-based chemicals, not salt, on roofs.

It minimizes damage to roof tiles, shrubbery, lawns, concrete and blacktop.

And just as emergency personnel warn homeowners to stay off their roofs because it's so dangerous, Graham said that reality often interferes with common sense.

"Look at the economy," he said. "Lots of people are doing this themselves."

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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