SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Utah Avalanche Center published a warning about the dangers of roof avalanches following the heavy amounts of snowfall during the winter, especially in mountain communities.
As temperatures warm up, more snow on the way, and the potential for heavy rain, the Utah Avalance Center said roof avalanches could become a significant hazard. The center warned that both adults and children have been killed by roof avalanches.
A roof avalanche is when a heavy amount of snow slides off the roof of a building and to the ground below. According to the International Institute of Building Enclosure Consultants (IIBEC), a snow avalanche occurs when the weight of the snow overloads natural forces holding it back on a sloped roof.
This process can be sped up by warming temperatures and rain. The IIBEC said the sun can heat up the roof below the snowpack, melting the snow at the bottom of the snowpack faster than at the top. The meltwater reduces surface friction between the built-up snow and the roof, causing the snow to quickly slide to the ground below. This can also be sped up by simply keeping the house warm inside.
Just like with any avalanche, these rooftop slide-offs have the potential to kill or seriously injure those caught up in them.
Managing snow throughout the season can help limit the risk of roof avalanches as well damages to a building’s roof.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends occasionally making sure to remove snow from the roof, but not all the snow.
“Removing snow completely from a roof surface can result in serious damage to the roof covering and possibly lead to leaks and additional damage,” said FEMA. “At least a couple of inches of snow should be left on the roof.”