AUGUSTA — State officials and meteorologists are warning Mainers about the heavy snow buildup on roofs in much of the state.

Most of Maine has had considerably more snow than at the same time last winter, so officials are concerned that the heavy snowpack could lead to leaks and even collapsed roofs if it isn’t cleared.

“For the most part, Mainers are pretty good about it,” said Susan Faloon, public information officer for the Maine Emergency Management Agency. “But this warning always bears reminding.”

Snow buildup is less of an issue along the southern coast of the state, where daytime temperatures above freezing and rain have helped melt accumulations.

Donald Dumont, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in the Aroostook County town of Caribou, said his office estimates that most roofs in northern and central Maine already are carrying 60 percent to 90 percent of the weight they are designed for. “On average, this would happen more toward the end of February,” he said.

Dumont said the amount of snow varies from roof to roof, but structures in wind-protected areas are likely to see the most buildup.

“It’s definitely a lot for this early in the year, but it’s not unheard of for us to have this much water weight in this much snow,” he said.

Mark Blais has been removing snow from roofs, decks, driveways and roads in the Augusta area for more than 30 years. He has already done nearly 10 roofs and decks this season.

“This is way earlier than last year, and it’s been much busier than expected,” Blais said. “People are definitely concerned.”

Blais said most people don’t become concerned until they start seeing leaks, but the best indicator of problems is ice buildup.

People can be misled when just looking at snowfall amounts, Dumont said, because not all snow weighs the same. It depends on how much ice and water the snow contains.

“You can’t just look at how much snow is on the ground, so it’s all about awareness,” Dumont said. “And rain is bad, because if you already have snow on your roof, the rain absorbs (it) and then the snow freezes again.”

Faloon said it’s important that people start clearing some of the snow off their roofs now to prevent an even bigger buildup when more snow falls. She said calling a professional is the safest option, and people without experience shouldn’t climb onto a roof.

The Insurance Institute on Business and Home Safety estimates the typical roof can handle 20 pounds per square foot of additional weight.

For pitched roofs, MEMA recommends using a snow rake, available at most hardware stores, although Dumont said they are sold out in northern Maine. Large icicles should be removed carefully because they can be heavy and sharp.

Some of the signs that a roof might be stressed include sagging roof sections, severe leaks, bends or ripples in supports, cracks in walls or masonry, or doors and windows that are difficult to open. MEMA says that if any of those signs are present, the building should be evacuated immediately.

Jason Pafundi can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: jasonpafundiKJ

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