Fire Department spokesman explains when it's time to worry about snow-covered roofs

Some people with flat or slightly pitched roofs wondered, with this week’s storm, if they needed to clear snow from their roof tops.

Greg Carmen, spokesman for the Milford Fire Department, searched the Internet and came up with some tips for roof conscious homeowners.

“There are a number of factors to look at when determining what is too much snow, like the amount of slope of the roof, age, type of construction, any previous problems — like rot, insects, or leaking,” Carmen said.

1.     A risky roof is flat or slightly pitched, and in a location that is exposed to wind. Shallow roofs adjacent to or below taller, steeper ones are especially vulnerable to a load of snow sliding down from above. For example, low-sloping roofs over porches, carports, and hastily built additions (which also often have undersize rafters) can be vulnerable.

2.     Unless the roof structure is damaged or decayed, most residential roofs regardless of the location of the house should be able to support 20 pounds per square foot of snow before they become stressed.

3.     If, after a heavy snow, you go into the attic and see that the rafters are severely bent by the weight of the snow above or if you hear cracking and popping, that's reason to be concerned. Another bad sign: The house's frame has moved enough to jam shut a door at the front or the back of the house.

Carmen said the safest way to get snow off a roof is with a roof rake.

Unfortunately, stores around Milford — like Lowes, Sears and Home Depot — were out of roof rakes just before this storm. While improvising tools might seem the way to go, Carmen said using garden shovels and the like to clear snow from the roof is not a good idea.

“People on ladders and using shovels or garden rakes with the slippery conditions we are having are more likely to have an accident,” Carmen said. “This also goes for anyone getting on the roof. Even a slight sloping roof is dangerous to walk on with snow and ice on them, and if you’re concerned enough about the weight on it, why add your body weight to it also.”