Thursday, February 13, 2014

Is Grand Rapids in for another Great Deluge this spring?

After months of snow and frigid temperatures, parts of West Michigan have the equivalent of 5 inches of rain, in frozen form, blocking their driveways, piled up against their houses and businesses, and in their streets. The usual pattern of accumulation, melt, accumulation, melt hasn't proved true this year, and unless we get a very gradual thaw, this could be a serious problem for many home and business owners in the coming weeks because the water has to go somewhere.

Beginning next Wednesday, we are in for a mini-thaw that will probably feel like summer after temperatures that have only climbed into the double digits at midday. That sudden increase will melt at least some of the standing snow and may create significant problems.

In recent days many have worried their roofs may collapse from the weight of all that snow, but under a thaw, new problems crop up. The snow accumulated on a well insulated roof will melt and refreeze and may create ice dams instead. Backed up ice can get under roof shingles and drip through ceilings, it can pull gutters out of shape or even off roofs, and it can suddenly break and fall off of a roof dropping a heavy weight on whatever lies beneath. Keep an eye on your roof to make sure this doesn't happen to you.

Ice can also melt and cause flooding. Get whatever snow you can away from the foundation of your house so that the water flows away from and not into it. We all know that melts can create ice jams and dam up rivers too. This is largely outside of our control, and we can only hope that the City of Grand Rapids floodwall system is in decent shape as there hasn't been time to entirely repair or improve the floodwall yet.  It only barely held out last year, and there was no reason to panic about flooding during the relatively mild winter of 2012-13. That winter was certainly not this winter. We may get some rain as well, which would only add to the runoff problems.

There's no reason to panic now. We can hope that the mini-thaw will not be problematic and will clear up the streets and melt down already formed ice dams. Just bear in mind that if you live near a river or in a place water pools, you should have a plan for dealing with it in mind now - before it's a problem.