Snow removal calls on the rise as powder continues to fall
February 12, 2008
Steamboat Springs — Standing near the edge of a roofline Monday, Tom Williams chipped away at an ice dam from a home on Clubhouse Drive in Steamboat Springs – one of 90 jobs booked for his snow removal crew.
As season-to-date snowfall at the Steamboat Ski Area surpassed the historical average of 331 inches last week, Williams said he received the largest volume of calls for snow removal in his 25 years in the business.
But despite the heavy snowfall – and increased demand for snow removal services – a Routt County Building Department official said most buildings are in no real danger of structural failure as a result of the hefty loads.
Ted Allen, the assistant building official for Routt County, said snowload standards were established 30 years ago, and most roofs on new homes and buildings in the area are engineered to handle between 75 and 100 pounds of snow per square foot. He estimated Monday that homes in Steamboat have about 35 to 40 pounds of snow per square foot.
“I don’t believe the snow loads are anything to worry about yet,” Allen said. “It’s still pretty standard from what we see, but it’s pretty early in the season, and things can continue to build up.”
The local snowload standards exclude storage sheds, agricultural structures, mobile homes or other buildings that adhere to federal, rather than local, standards.
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“We do have a class of homes built under federal programs, such as the (Department of Housing and Urban Development) homes, including mobile homes in our area,” Allen said. “Those folks have a national standard on their snowload. It may be only 40 pounds, which is about 25 pounds less than homes in Steamboat Springs.”
Williams said he already is seeing signs of too much snow built up on local rooftops. Cracked drywall and garage doors that won’t open are signs that heavy loads are putting undue structural pressure on buildings. The stress may result in the need for expensive repairs, while some buildings, unable to shoulder the load, could collapse under the enormous weight.
Williams said Allen’s 40 pounds per square foot estimate of snow on Steamboat homes is low, and he estimated some roofs in Steamboat, especially those that are shielded from the sun, may be holding 65 to 70 pounds of snow per square foot.
“If you only have 50 pounds per square foot on a 1,000-square-foot house, that’s about 25 tons on your house,” Williams said. “That’s an enormous amount of weight.”
Older buildings not included in Steamboat’s 30-year-old snowload standards, such as the Routt County Courthouse that was built in 1923, may need to be shored up to shoulder the heavy weight, Allen said. The courthouse is undergoing a renovation to install new support beams.
Another 1 to 3 inches of snow is expected to fall this morning in Steamboat, according to the National Weather Service, but little snow is expected for the rest of the week.
Annie Plocheva, owner of A&M Services snow removal company, said the lull in winter weather may give her crew a chance to catch up on the number of homeowners who want their roofs cleared.
“We are getting at least four calls (a day) that are pretty much residential,” she said. “This is more than we have seen in many years.”
For some structures, such as the building that housed Standards Plumbing Supply on Elk River Road, the weight of the season’s snowfall already has taken its toll. The aluminum building, which is vacant, crumpled last week under the weight of heavy snow.
“There is going to be a lot more of that happening this year,” Williams said. “There is just not enough people to get it off.”
While shoveling your roof may not be necessary, officials recommend making sure dryer, furnace and water heater vents are unobstructed. For more information, call the Routt County Regional Building Department at 870-5566.