A Housing Meltdown

010105_Bowers_ice CBS

Chicago has suffered more than its share of snow and ice this winter, as more than three feet piled on many rooftops. So, when skies cleared and the temperature crept above freezing for first time in weeks, people were delighted - until they saw snow turn to water.

"We walked into the room and there was a spot on the ceiling and it was like a water balloon hanging," homeowner Mark Szpargowski said.

The heavy snow is about to become a huge expense. Thousands of homeowners are watching their walls warp and ceilings collapse. Insurance adjusters are watching a disaster in the making, CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports.

Rick Sweeney, an Allstate Insurance Co. Catastrophe Team member, said there's no way to forecast when a roof will collapse. "As the snow melts in the cold weather, there's now way to predict how bad this is going to get," he said.

Coldest Ever!
Government weather experts confirm that the last two months have been the country's coldest November-December period on record.
Claims are just beginning to trickle in, more than 6,000 so far in the Chicago area alone, but unlike a hurricane or a tornado, this natural disaster will take weeks to show its full force, and the insurance industry knows these early reports are just the tip of the iceberg.

Workers have their hands full. Inch by inch, Warner Nelson carefully clears a canal through the ice to give melting snow a way out. After three weeks of 14-hour days, the roofer is like an emergency room doctor, forced to choose which of his customers can wait and which requires immediate attention.

"It's really not a moneymaker, it's more of a heartbreaker because you hate to see people really taking, you know, water in their homes," said Nelson.

Homeowners like Szpargowski wonder what else may be happening within their walls, fully aware that the warmer it gets, the worse it will be.

"Right now, we're just living from day to day there, with buckets on the floor to stop water from dripping," he said.


  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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