How to handle a snowzilla …
Just when some folks thought this would be a typical late winter with around-zero temperatures, we end up with coastal Alaska conditions. Anyone who has lived in Cordova, Valdez or Kodiak knows what I mean — a one-foot snowfall in less than 24 hours, the constant beeps of front-end loaders, and the 30-foot piles of snow on vacant corner properties and parking lots.
In the Interior, a snowfall with high-moisture content, with a half-day break at most before stoutly hitting us again, is certainly not the usual. There are a couple of home items to keep an eye on during the heavy snows.
If you have a septic system, make sure that the top of your vent pipe is not plugged with snow, to prevent sewer gas backing up. It usually is PVC or ABS plastic 2-inch piping that should extend at least 3 feet from the roof. If the pipe is clogged, pouring just a bit hot water down the pipe will not hurt and will help clear the ice or frost.
Be careful of tapping the pipe from ground level with a long telescoping painting pole or snow rake as you do not want to loosen the mastic, rubber boot or flashing where the pipe enters the roof. Leaks could then develop. It is also possible to get “in wall’ type of units that can be put in right behind the drywall of your toilet and use interior air for the pressure differential and sewer gas control.
Also, keep an eye on snow load on your roof, especially if you are in a mobile home or any other flat-roof building. You may need to get on top and shovel a time or two this year to relieve the pressure, which is measured in pounds per square inch. Fairbanks city code requires that roofs must be able to support 50 pounds per square foot of snow load. As of Feb. 26, the National Weather Service indicated that that the snow load was 25 pounds per square foot at the Fairbanks airport.
You can take a sample at your house by cutting a 12-by-12-inch square of snow on your roof and transferring it into a large container for weighing on a bathroom scale (subtract the container’s weight). Keep a snow rake on hand for clearing off — especially on overhangs and coverings that extend out from the main rafters of the roof.
Keep an eye on gutters. Keep them as cleared from the heavy snow as you can so that they will stay connected and function properly when spring breakup hits. And be sure also that any lean-tos used for covering wood or summer bikes are still connected well to the main structure. Another thing to keep track of if you have an attic that is “cold,” is make sure the louvers of end vents are not coated snow and ice as you want air to circulate in the upper story or attic.
The other important place to keep an eye on is the entrance and stairways. Keep them free of ice.
Hopefully, we will have spring soon and be able to shove old man winter aside!