Preparing For The Snow Fall
Snow is great for skiing or for children to romp around in, but it can cause major problems where the home is concerned. Excessive snowfall can result in everything from a cracked chimney to a collapsed roof. What’s more, the energy required to clean up after a major snowstorm can trigger health problems or even result in a heart attack. Placing your best foot forward before things get out of hand can make for good personal health along with a healthy home.
Be prepared. The best time to deal with a snowstorm is BEFORE it arrives. It’s can be virtually futile to take measures in the middle of a blizzard. Stay on top of weather conditions by tuning into a local radio or television station. Know the difference between winter storm WATCHES and WARNINGS. A winter storm “watch” means a winter storm is possible in your area. A winter storm “warning” means a winter storm is headed for your area. A blizzard warning means strong winds, blinding wind-driven snow and dangerous wind chill are expected. You should seek immediate shelter.
Have a plan. If you are in an area of the country that is subject to frequent snowfall, put together a disaster supplies kit for your home in a clearly labeled, easy-to-grab box. The kit should include a battery-operated radio, a flashlight, extra batteries for both the radio and flashlight, canned food, a nonelectric can opener, first aid supplies (including essential medications), and an ample supply of bottled water.
It’s also a good idea to have a kit in the trunk of each car used by members of your household. Include blankets, extra sets of dry clothing, a shovel, sand, tire chains, jumper cables, a first aid kit, a flashlight with extra batteries, and a brightly colored cloth to tie to the antenna. And don’t forget to winterize the car(s) before winter storm season. While it’s important to have your vehicle equipped with these safety measures, it is best to avoid traveling by car in a storm.
Where the home is concerned, minimize the amount of snow that collects on the roof by periodically removing excess amounts with a shovel. Use extreme caution when working atop the roof and never shovel directly on top of the roof material as this will likely damage it. The load caused by excessive amounts of snow buildup can damage the roof framing system or, in some cases, cause it to collapse.
An ice dam can also lead to significant damage. Ice dams form when melted snow freezes at the edge of the roof. The ice traps melting snow from above which creates a reservoir that allows water to back up between the shingles and result in a leak. The leak manifests itself through the ceiling or by traveling along both interior and exterior walls. There are many ways to prevent an ice dam. Metal roofing, sheet metal ice belts, electrical heat tape and rubberized sheets are a few of the methods used to prevent an ice dam.
One of the most effective methods of preventing an ice dam is with insulation. Tightly insulated walls and ceilings will hold heat inside the home, prohibiting the heat from rising into the attic, heating the underside of the roof and melting the snow. Snow at the roofs edge is not affected by this heat because it is generally above unheated space. The key is to keep the underside of the roof cold from eave to ridge. This is best done with unobstructed eave ventilation and another source of passive attic ventilation such as a ridge vent.
Personal health and safety are major concerns after a snowfall. According to the American Red Cross, accidental deaths occur most frequently in January, when an estimated 1,000 people die from falls outside the house.
To increase safety of family, friends and neighbors, keep your walkways and driveways free from snow and ice. Snow blowers and ice-melting granules make the process much easier and less physically demanding. Act early. It’s easiest to remove snow immediately following a snowfall, before it becomes packed or turns to ice. You can help prevent ice from forming by spreading ice melters when heavy wet snow, sleet or freezing rain begins. Reapply later after removing any accumulation. Calcium nitrate or a garden fertilizer containing urea is an effective alternative to a chemical deicing compound. Your won’t ruin the soil or harm or kill shrubs and trees.
A major health concern involves shoveling. Don’t shovel snow if you don’t exercise regularly or iv you have a history of heart problems or obesity. Furthermore, unless you exercise regularly, don’t shovel snow if you are older than 55. The strain from the cold and hard labor may cause a heart attack. If you must shovel, do it properly. Take it show. Lift small amounts only using proper posture to prevent back strain. Keep your back straight and lift gently from the knees and hips. Don’t throw or fling snow over your shoulders. Take frequent breaks and stop immediately if you feel pain or become short of breath.
Dress for cold weather. Wear a hat. Fifty percent of your body heat is lost through your head. Also, dress in layers. You can take off a layer if you get too warm. Woolen pants will keep you warmer than jeans, corduroys or sweatpants. Don’t forget to wear long underwear to pull moisture away from your skin. Wear gloves or mittens and replace wet clothing immediately.
Finally, drink hot cider, sour or broth. They warm you and five you nutrients and energy. Coffee and tea, so popular on cold days, actually cool the body. Drinking beverages with alcohol or caffeine will make you more susceptible to cold weather emergencies such as hypothermia.