Northern B.C. residents warned heavy snow could damage older homes

Officials in the Bulkley Valley have warned heavy snow could be damaging buildings not designed to withstand the pressure of ice and snow buildup in northwest B.C.

Homes constructed prior to 1993 at risk from buildup

Officials in northwest B.C. are urging people to make sure excess snow is cleared off of homes constructed prior to modern building codes. (Brenda Bouzane)

Officials in the Bulkley Valley have warned heavy snow could damage buildings not designed to withstand the pressure of ice and snow buildup in northwest B.C.

The risk is calculated by measuring the snow load — or the amount of pressure being exerted by snow and ice on the ground or other surfaces. The B.C. Building Code has requirements for how much snow load structures should be able to withstand.

In Smithers, the current snow load is higher than the requirements in place before 1985, so the community is urging residents with older homes to take steps to safely clear the buildup.

Town building official Roy Lovgreen said while collapses are a possibility, structural damage is more likely.

"It's more deflection — deflection of the trusses or beams and that can cause cracking of drywall inside a dwelling," he explained.

In addition to clearing driveways, residents of Smithers are being told to keep their homes cleared of excess snow. (Simon Camish)

He also warned ice and snow buildup could block heat from escaping homes, causing shingles to melt. 

A similar warning was issued by the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako, which found snow accumulations were approaching the upper limits for "minimally designed buildings constructed prior to 1993."

In a bulletin, the district warned people against clearing the snow themselves and instead recommended using contractors.

In Smithers, the town issued a list of safety tips for clearning snow off buildings, including:

  1. Not shovelling alone.
  2. Using fall-restraint or rope safety lines.
  3. Not over-exerting yourself.
  4. Removing snow evenly to avoid unbalanced snow loads.
  5. Leaving 50 mm of snow on the roof.
  6. Not clearing onto public roadways or sidewalks.

Lovgreen said over 100 centimetres of snow was measured on the ground in Smithers Thursday morning, with roughly 40 centimetres of it falling in the past 24 hours.