As this winter's snow continues to fall, concerns for homeowners are on the rise. January is well on its way to establishing a new snowfall record in Minot, and that comes on the heels of a record-breaking amount of snow dumped on the city in December.
Boulevards, yards and rooftops are all piled high with snow and there's plenty of winter yet to come.
One thing homeowners should keep on eye on is their sewer vents exiting through their rooftops. If sewer vents become covered with snow, smelly problems are likely to occur.
Kim Fundingsland/MDN •
Because of extensive snowfall so far this winter, Minot area homeowners are encouraged to regularly monitor the amount of snow building up their rooftops.
Kim Fundingsland/MDN •
The furnace vent on this Minot home remains above the snow cover Monday but the sewer vent, revealed only by a bump in the snow to the right of the furnace vent, lies beneath the snowline.
Kim Fundingsland/MDN •
John Lund, Farroh Roof Truss Company, advises homeowners to consider having snow removed from their rooftops, particularly if the snow depth reaches 19 inches or more.
"We've had quite a few calls about that," said Travis Mowbray, Mowbray & Son Plumbing and Heating. "There's really no easy or good fix. As long as the snow isn't covering them it'll help to run hot water through the dishwasher and shower and get some heat going through it. The best thing is just to keep them clear of snow."
According to Mowbray, if the air from a home's sewer system doesn't have a place to go it will eventually cause siphon traps to become dry. Homeowner's concerned about their sewer vents should check their floor drains to make sure they are working properly. If not, a plugged sewer vent could be the problem.
"You'll notice it long before it will hurt you," assured Mowbray. "You will smell it and it might make you sick."
City snow emergency continued
The Public Works Director for the City of Minot, Alan Walter, has proclaimed a continuation of Minot's snow removal emergency. All vehicles will be towed from city streets immediately until further public notice. Citizens will not be notified prior to towing. Previously tagged vehicles will be towed as necessary; there will be no 96-hour reprieve.
City crews will not be using snow gates on blades. One-way truck plows are being used in some areas. Driveways will be blocked.
If a sewer vent becomes clogged, a homeowner might have to endure an uncomfortable smell until favorable weather conditions help open the vent.
"It's mostly bothersome. It's not carbon monoxide, it's sewer gas," said Missy Newbury, Minot Plumbing and Heating. "We've been getting calls about it. We won't tell anybody to climb on the roof to clear a vent. It's too dangerous. There's not a lot you can do if it's iced up. Just wait it out until it thaws if you can. The best thing you can do is prevent it from happening the next time."
A second source of concern for Minot area homeowners is the increasing amount of snow on rooftops, particularly those roofs that have a steep peak leading to a lower section of roof. It is there that the snow load can build up quite quickly. John Lund of Farroh Roof Truss Co. of Minot shares homeowners' concern about the increasing snow load on rooftops. Lund said, according to engineers used by Farroh Roof Truss, trusses used in construction in the Minot area and western North Dakota have been designed to carry a load of 30 pounds per square foot.
"What that means, basically, is that it'll support 19 inches of snow. Trusses are designed for that," said Lund. "If you go above the snow load for a sustained period of time, you may have some problems. It's better to be safe than sorry. Right now, with 19 inches or better, people really should be thinking about possibly removing some of that snow. It's in their best interest to pay attention to that."
Lund emphasized that the situation for every homeowner is a bit different. Dense snow weighs more than fluffy snow. Sometimes wind will blow snow off one section of rooftop and pile it onto another. According to Lund, trusses built prior to the late 1950's were likely hand built and not engineered as well as the trusses of today. The result is that there is some uncertainty regarding how much of a load those trusses will actually support.
"The best thing is error on the side of caution," said Lund. "Like anything, there is a breaking point but where that point is is hard to say. It's really unpredictable and we have a whole lot of winter left."