Blizzard Damage

Quick Summary

Winter storms are expected every year, but the effects of blizzards can wreak havoc on your home. Learn about the kind of damage blizzards can cause and how you can keep your home protected. 

Blizzard Damage Overview

blizzard-damageMost people have experienced snowstorms at least once but possibly haven’t been through a blizzard.

Blizzards are severe snowstorms, characterized by heavy snow, freezing rain, strong winds of 35 mph or more, less than a quarter-mile of visibility and typically lasting three hours or longer.

These types of snowstorms can be physically catastrophic to homes and buildings, and often, the complete level of property damage can go unseen for quite some time.

When a blizzard passes through, temperatures plunge and can quickly freeze insulated pipes.

The water in the pipes expands as it freezes and can burst, causing minor cracks in your pipes, severe leaks or worse. Ice dams can form on your roof, creating additional pressure on roof edges and eaves.

During a bad snowstorm, temperatures typically rise and fall throughout the day, melting and refreezing any snow on your roof. This can cause water to leak into brickwork, siding and ceiling joists. In serious cases, heavy snow can weigh more than your roof can structurally hold and cause it to collapse.

It’s also not uncommon for melting winter snow to flood basements and overload gutters and downspouts. This can saturate the soil around your foundation, leading to flooding.

Roof and Gutter Damage

When rooftops collect several inches of snow, it adds considerable weight. Too much weight on your roof can cause it to collapse, resulting in costly repairs and severe structural damage.

One cubic foot of wet snow on your roof can weigh 12 pounds.

Blizzards and high winds can also put your gutters at risk for severe destruction. Plummeting temperatures can turn the debris and water in your gutters into slush and ice, slowing the flow and creating a backup. Frozen water in your gutters will expand and can cause your gutters and drains to split and break the system.

Flooding and Water Damage

Flooding and water damage from blizzard conditions are also common. Due to frigid temperatures and cold air, it’s not uncommon for pipes to freeze and burst, causing extreme flooding as the ice melts. The accumulated snow will eventually melt as temperatures rise. Often, the thawing of ice and snow happens too quickly and can create substantial flooding.

It’s also not unusual for homes and commercial buildings to experience water damage during or after a heavy snowfall. Ice builds up on ledges and drains, which can prevent melting snow from draining properly.

The melting water often seeps into your home’s walls, ceilings and insulation, causing water damage and possible structural damage.

Blizzard Damage Restoration Process

After a blizzard has passed through, you should take a few steps to ensure your home is safe and structurally sound.

Watch for Downed Power Lines

Blowing snow and high winds can quickly snap tree branches, impacting power lines. If your area has suffered power outages, look out the window for any downed power lines. If you see any power lines in your yard, call your power company immediately. Next, ensure your carbon monoxide detector is working.

Document the Damages

Once your safety has been established, you’ll want to start documenting any significant damages caused by the blizzard for insurance purposes. Check your pipes, ceilings and walls for any leaks.

If you see any water seeping through, turn off your water supply immediately. Also, turn your taps on. If there’s only a trickle of water coming out, turn your water supply off. It’s possible for your home’s pipes to have burst, causing flooding.  In either situation, contact a plumber or water damage expert right away.

Check for Structural Damage

Assess your roof and chimney for any storm damage. If you notice any structural damage, you’ll want to contact a roof repair company or a structural contractor. In this situation, try to stay out of your home—structural damage puts your roof at risk of collapsing. In addition, lighting a fire in a fireplace with a damaged chimney can cause smoke to back up into your home.

Damage to your home from a blizzard is stressful and worrisome, but try not to panic.

Structural damage and restoration experts will inspect your home and let you know if your chimney, walls or roof have been compromised.

The structural inspection process typically takes 2-3 hours.

They’ll provide recommendations in a report on how to fix the damage and advise what to do next. You’ll want to share this report with your insurance company as soon as possible.

Preventing Blizzard Damage

If you live in blizzard prone areas of the United States, particularly the East Coast with its destructive Nor’easters, there are steps you can take to help prevent winter weather from damaging your home.

A few precautionary measures can make a big difference when it comes to blizzard damage.

Before a Blizzard Hits

  1. Make sure that your roof is up to code and that the shingles on your roof have been properly installed
  2. Think about installing resistant glass to limit wind damage
  3. Regularly have your foundation checked for leaks or cracks
  4. Use a roof rake to keep gutters clear of ice dams which can cause significant leaks
  5. Clear snow off of outside vents and furnaces that exhaust from the combustion of oil or gas
  6. Keep doorways clear of snow in order to have easy access to your home
  7. If the blizzard causes a power outage, keep the heat inside by making sure all windows and doors are closed. In addition, keep the fireplace flues closed and limit opening the refrigerator and freezer to prevent food from spoiling.
  8. Always have an ample amount of emergency supplies such as extra food, water, and blankets.

More Blizzard Safety Tips

Salt your roof and gutters.

The salt can help prevent snow and ice from building up.

You’ll want to ensure routinely that your roof is entirely up to code. Also, clear your gutters of debris to prevent any buildup and ice dams. It’s essential to have your foundation inspected for any signs of structural damage.

Blizzards can accumulate large amounts of snow on your roof, so it’s necessary to clear all snow before the storm hits. Remove any snow or debris from any outside vents or furnaces that exhaust from oil or gas combustion.

Ensure Clear Entrencances and Exits to your Home

You’ll also want to make sure you keep any entrances or exits to your home clear of snow. Removing snow before the blizzard arrives can help prevent additional and unnecessary buildup and accumulation, helping prevent further damage.

Does Home Insurance Cover Snow Damage?

Most homeowner’s insurance covers damages caused by winter storms. Many policies include protection against damage caused by ice dams, heavy winds, burst pipes, structural damage from snow or roof collapse and more. Some insurance companies require additional flood insurance for melting snow that seeps into your home. Confirm with your insurance provider to ensure you’re entirely protected.

Repairing snow damage to roofs can be expensive but is typically covered by your insurance policy.

You’ll likely have to pay a deductible, but the overall cost can range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars, depending on the extent of the damage.

Blizzard damage repair costs will vary based on the type of roof you have. Composite roofs, asphalt shingles and wood shakes are often less expensive to repair than slate and metal roofs.

Hiring Restoration Professionals to Repair Blizzard Damage

Hiring a professional to repair blizzard damage to your home is the best route to take.

Trusted, insured and reliable professionals can properly assess the damage and ensure your home is up to code and in tip-top shape. Also, having your home inspected before winter can be beneficial if you need to file any insurance claims post-blizzard.

If you’d like to get your foundation or roof inspected prior to the winter season, call a structural contractor or engineer or a roofing company. Either way, protect your home this winter or repair blizzard damage by contacting a professional.

Find a storm and blizzard damage restoration expert near you.

Water Damage Advisor

The Water Damage Advisor content team is made up of multiple contributors, writers, and editors. We are your resource hub for anything related to water damage, mold and restoration needs that you may be challenged with facing.

7 References
  1. Watcher Insurance Agency (2016). How Do Blizzards Cause Home Damage?
  2. CBS Money Watch (2016). It’s Blizzard Season, Is Your Home Ready?
  3. American Red Cross. (2020). Winter storm preparedness and blizzard safety.
  4. National Weather Service. (Date unknown). Caution! Winter storm dangers linger.
  5. The Washington Post. (2017). Blizzard checklist: How to prepare your home for the impending snow.
  6. The New York Times. (2016). For Blizzard Damage, Turn to your Homeowner’s Policy.
  7. Insurance Information Institute. (2017). Damage From Blizzards, Winter Storms Covered By Most Standard Insurance Policies, Says The I.I.I.
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