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Expert advice on safety in the snowstorm

posted Feb 13, 2010, 3:08 PM by Corley Roofing   [ updated Feb 14, 2010, 7:18 AM ]
Some tips for residents dealing with the harmful effects of ice and snow on their homes:

Should I shovel my roof?

John Corley, vice president of Corley Roofing & Sheet Metal in Temple Hills, has been asked this question a lot in recent days. His typical answer? No.

"You can damage the roof by knocking a few holes in it," Corley said. "Then you'll have more problems than you had before."

In dire situations where ice dams in gutters are forcing water to stream down interior walls, pull your gutters or downspouts off. "It's a last-ditch effort. If you have water pouring into the house all the way across the ceiling and walls, it's the only thing you can do."

What about a roof rake?

Roof rakes come in 16-foot lengths (some can be extended by five feet) and can be used to scrape the ice and snow. The process is demanding and can be dangerous. Experts say the key to removing snow from a roof is never to step on the roof. Another pointer: Be careful not to inadvertently puncture the roof.

Is there a right way to shovel?

Experts offer these tips: If you are out of shape or overweight, tackle snow shoveling at a slow pace to lower the risk of heart attack. Take small loads of snow on your shovel. Bend your knees and keep your back as straight as possible so you are lifting with your legs. Take frequent breaks. Do not drink alcohol while you shovel.

What should I do about trees and shrubs covered in ice?

Trees that pose an immediate danger or obstruction to a home need the attention of pros, arborists say, but most of the cleanup can be left until later. Broken branches can be cleanly removed then, though the result may be a loss of desired symmetry. Azaleas, boxwoods, yews and other shrubs buried or bent by snow should be left until after the thaw. "If you start beating things free of snow, you'll do more harm than good," said Kevin Carr of Bartlett Tree Experts.

Should I use a gas generator for heat?

Fire officials warn that running a gas-powered generator indoors or using other methods to heat your home could cause a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide. CO gas can cause serious illness -- or even death -- if inhaled at high enough levels.

Sources of CO are unvented kerosene and gas space heaters; leaking chimneys and furnaces; back-drafting from furnaces, gas water heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces; gas stoves; generators and other gasoline-powered equipment; and automobile exhaust from attached garages. A working CO alarm is the best method residents can use to detect the presence of the gas. CO alarms are inexpensive and can be bought at hardware and home improvement stores.

-- From staff reports

Originally published in the Washington Post by a Staff Writer on Thursday, February 11, 2010 and a selection of Q&As republished on Saturday, February 13, 2010.