BOSTON — A quick succession of heavy storms have piled several feet of snow on roofs throughout New England, leading to ice dams that are threatening to damage the interiors of homes and buildings.
State leaders have been urging Massachusetts residents to clear excess snow from roofs, where possible, or hire professionals to break up ice dams, which develop over time at the roof's edge and prevent melted snow from draining properly.
They've also warned residents to be wary of people charging exorbitant prices for roof snow removal work. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Friday that a legitimate roofing company should be able to provide a business license or other credentials, as well as insurance documents.
The coming days only promise to make matters worse.
Forecasters say the region should see a few inches of snow Saturday before it changes over to rain. That will be followed by warmer temperatures Sunday, another round of freezing cold Monday and Tuesday and possibly a significant snowstorm Wednesday.
Daniel Alperin, a Newton, Massachusetts, resident, said he spent almost $3,000 this winter to clear snow from his roof. But four rooms in his split-level house now have water damage from ice dams.
"It's been so hard to keep up with the snow," Alperin said Friday. "None of it has really melted. The scary thing is that there's not much you can do."
Local cleanup companies say they've been swamped with inquiries.
Steve Gilmore, who owns a local ServiceMaster disaster restoration franchise, said the roofing companies he contracts out for snow removal work are already three to four weeks behind on job orders. His company has also been struggling to respond to about 1,400 calls during the last two weeks from homeowners dealing with water damage.
"I've never seen it like this," Gilmore said. "It's almost biblical."
He said this winter's historic snowfalls, which have dumped more than 8 feet of snow in the Boston area, make it nearly impossible for any homeowner to clear roof snow safely on their own.
"If you could have cleared your roof during one of those first storms two or three weeks ago, then it's good," Gilmore said. "But now, we've got folks with a foot of ice up there. What homeowner is going to take a foot of ice off?"
The state Emergency Management Agency recommends homeowners attempting to clear snow use roof rakes and not climb on a ladder to do it, since ice tends to build up on ladder rungs and the soles of shoes. The agency also discourages using open-flame devices or electric heating devices like hair dryers or heat guns to remove snow and ice.
Gilmore said the best thing residents can do is take steps to protect their belongings once ice dams have done their damage. That includes hiring a moving company to move heavy furniture away from leaky areas or draining water from sagging ceilings by poking holes and placing a bucket to catch dripping water.
"People don't like to hear it, but it is what it is," Gilmore said. "Sometimes all you can do is just push back against the tide."