SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Heavy snow totals from Utah’s seemingly endless winter have been affecting more than just the ski resorts and canyons. Utah fire authorities have been responding to an increasing number of houses and structures with collapsed roofs with each passing winter storm.

Over the weekend, the Park City Fire District reported three houses with collapsed roofs. Two houses on the same street within the Mountain Green district had roof collapses within days of each other.

In every instance, heavy snow build-up was the culprit. So how can you tell if heavy snow is putting too much stress on your home?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a few key warning signs to be on the lookout for, especially after a heavy snow event:

  • Sagging ceiling tiles or boards
  • Sprinkler heads deflecting below suspended ceilings
  • Popping, cracking, and creaking noises
  • Sagging roof members, including metal decking or plywood sheathing
  • Bowing truss bottom chords or web members
  • Doors and/or windows that can no longer be opened or closed
  • Cracked or split wood members
  • Cracks in the walls or masonry
  • Roof leaks
  • Excessive accumulation of water at nondrainage locations on low-slope roofs

FEMA warns that if any of these signs are noticed, the building should be evacuated immediately and a contractor should perform a detailed structural inspection as soon as possible.

If you are concerned about snow build-up, FEMA recommends contacting a local building authority or qualified design professional who is familiar with snow conditions to evaluate your roof. If it’s determined that snow should be removed from the roof, FEMA says it should be done only by a qualified individual who can follow safety protocols and minimize the risk of injury.

Some of the safety measures include using a harness when possible, having someone below to keep people away from the roof, and keeping a safe distance away to remain outside of sliding range of falling snow.

When removing the snow, FEMA said to leave at least a couple of inches on the roof as completely uncovering the roof could lead to serious damage and possible leaks. Avoid using mechanical equipment and sharp or metal tools to lessen the risk of damage to the roof.

FEMA said long-handled, non-metallic snow rakes can be used from the ground in some instances to minimize the risk of injury and roof damage.

Other tips include:

  • Remove drifted snow first
  • Start from the center portion of the roof once drifted snow is removed
  • Do not stockpile snow on the roof
  • Dispose of removed snow in designated areas on the ground
  • Keep snow away from building exits, fire escapes, drains, ventilation openings, etc.
  • If possible, remove snow starting at the ridge and moving toward the eave for gable and sloped roofs.

Once snow is removed, the roof should be inspected by a professional for any signs of damage.