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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

How to Protect Your Property from Floods Caused by Snowmelt, Ice Jams, and Winter Storms

1/31/2022 (Permalink)

storm flooding services The risk of flooding doesn't go away after winter.

When we hear about flooding in the news, we usually hear about spring floods and summer storms, giving the impression that flooding occurs just half of the year. We're not out of the woods yet.

The risk of flooding doesn't go away in the winter, and flooding isn't the only thing to be concerned about when the weather turns cold. Snowmelt, ice jams, and winter storms threaten major floods from the Pacific Northwest to the Great Lakes to the Northeast throughout the winter months.

Winter Flood Risk #1: Snowmelt

Snowmelt is an element of the natural water cycle. However, if snow thaws too quickly to be absorbed back into the soil, neighboring water bodies, and drainage systems, it can flood adjoining land, potentially flooding your basement.

Snowmelt floods can occur anywhere in the snowy north of the US, and they usually occur in small, isolated episodes. But that doesn't rule out the possibility of serious consequences. Let's pretend it snows ten inches, which isn't unheard of in freezing areas. One inch of water equals ten inches of snow, and an inch of floodwater can cost you up to $25k in repairs, according to FEMA.

While snowmelt risk is higher in the spring, climate change has introduced more and more unseasonably warm temperatures every winter. Take the 2019 Midwestern floods, for example. Record amounts of snowfall from January through March were followed by a three-day stretch of 60-degree weather. Rain fell and caused historic levels of flooding along the Missouri River and its tributaries.

Winter Flood Risk #2: Ice Jams

Long cold episodes that cause the surface of rivers to freeze are followed by warm spells, resulting in ice jam floods. Large pieces of ice break off unevenly as temperatures rise, blocking streams and flooding adjacent settlements.

Winter Flood Risk #3: Winter Storms

People who live in lakeside places like the Windy City are probably familiar with flooding in the winter. Strong winds from winter storms can create massive waves that crash over shorelines and barriers into city streets, as they did in Chicago last winter.

These winter storms and subsequent floods are common in the Midwest along the Great Lakes, but they also happen along the East Coast. Nor’easters can trigger storm surges that push heavy ocean tides into coastal communities, on top of heavy rain or snow.

Regular downpours and flash floods can happen throughout the winter, too, as long as temperatures are high enough.

Steps You Can Take This Winter to Prevent Flooding on Your Property

The easiest method to protect your property from a flood is to put measures in place before one occurs. The two most important actions to take care of to ensure that you have both financial and structural flood mitigation on your property.

Step 1: Secure Flood Insurance

Purchase flood insurance as soon as possible once the fear of floods has passed. That way, if you experience flood damage this winter, you'll be able to file a claim swiftly and easily.

The good news is that a flood insurance policy covers all sorts of flood damage equally, so your policy will provide coverage all year. The cost of coverage is decided by factors such as the age of your structure, the type of foundation it has, and your flood zone and risk level.

Step 2: Shovel Proactively and Test Drainage Systems

Shovel snow away from your foundation by at least five feet. 

Shovel snow away from a runoff path if your property is on a slope or hill.

Remove any snow that has accumulated on your roof.

Keep snow and ice from accumulating around your property's drainage systems, such as gutters and groundwater pumps.

A bucket of water can be used to test sump pumps.

Floods caused by snowmelt, ice jams, or winter storms can be helped with the same wet and dry floodproofing measures you take to safeguard your property against spring and summer floods, such as constructing drainage systems.

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