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Getting Answers: Rooftop snow loads after winter storm, what not to do

Residents in the foothills using break in storms to clear snow from roofs
Residents in the foothills using break in storms to clear snow from roofs 02:31

EL DORADO COUNTY -- In sunshine and a break in the snowfall, snow removal crews worked throughout the region clearing roads, digging out driveways, and clearing snow from rooftops. 

Snow piled high on rooftops can become dangerous and cause greater storm impacts, even on a day when there's a break in the storm. The weight of snow on top of homes can cause the roof or structure to collapse. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency advises homeowners do not wait until there is too much snow to remove it and the ideal height on a rooftop is less than 12 inches. 

The weight of one foot of fresh snow can range in weight from three pounds per square foot for light, dry snow and up to 21 pounds per square foot for wet and heavy snow. 

Snow also varies in weight depending on the geographic location, according to FEMA. Snow that falls in the western part of the country is typically lighter and less dense than snow in the eastern part of the country. 

The snow piled high can also create ice dams, which occur when the bottom part of the snow melts and then refreezes before it drains off the edge of the roof. Snow melt between snow event can also create ice dams concentrated at the eaves of the home that reduce the ability for snow to shed properly from a sloped roof. 

"People get really worried about the weight on their roof," said Malachi Key, who is busy with snow removal over the course of the storm. He has his own personal business with upwards of a dozen jobs a day when there's snow removing from rooftops and clearing driveways. 

He said he has construction experience and comes prepared with the right equipment, including shoes that grip the roof and doesn't get on a roof unless it is safe and sturdy to do so. Key said he does not recommend clearing snow off of a roof piled feet high without a professional. He said if there are a few inches, under a foot, roof rakes are a great investment and can safely remove snow from roofs from the ground. 

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