Winter may seem like an unusual time for flood, but it actually happens more than you would think. Flooding from melting snow can happen any time there is a quick temperature change. Most basement flooding during the winter is caused by melting snow as a result of faulty gutters, cracks in foundations, and improper runoff.
What Happens With Snow Melts
As snow melts, it turns into water. As a general rule of thumb, ten inches of snow will melt into one inch of water. The actual amount depends on how heavy the snow is. Unlike rain, melting snow is already on the ground.
A quick thaw can introduce a significant amount of water to the soil around your property. If it can’t flow away from your foundation, it can pool there and may eventually enter your home. With enough water, it can cause flooding. Spring rains can make the situation worse, speeding up the melting snow while adding additional water.
Snow Melt Flooding Isn’t Just Limited to Spring
Although Spring is the most common time for flooding caused by melting snow, it can happen at any time. Our weather patterns have become increasingly unpredictable, resulting in heavy snow and freezing temperatures one day and warmer temperatures and rain the next. This can result in snowmelt flooding at any time. Check your basement for signs of snowmelt flooding any time there is a significant change in temperature.
Problems Melting Snow Can Cause:
Although unlikely, a rapid thaw can result in snow flooding your basement or crawl space. This typically happens is there is a sudden change in temperature. Snowmelt flooding can damage flooring and walls, as well as furniture and personal items.
Similar to flooding, water damage can result if there is water enters your property more slowly. Water damage caused by snow melting typically happens during more gradual thaws but can result in the same amount of damage.
Anytime there is a persistent source of water, there is a potential for mold. Although mold generally prefers warmer temperatures, it will thrive if the conditions are right. It is most common during slow, gradual thaws, but may develop after water damage or a flood as well.
How to Prevent Flooding From Melting Snow
- Shovel snow away from your home, keeping it away from your foundation. Whenever possible, keep snow 5 feet away from your foundation.
- If your home is on a grade or hill, shovel snow so that it doesn’t roll toward your home when it melts. This ensures melting snow flows away from your home, instead of towards it.
- Clear snow from your roof to prevent excessive buildups. This prevents a significant amount of water flowing through your gutters during a thaw.
- Keep drainage areas around your home clear of snow and ice build up. This ensures melting snow will drain properly and helps prevent backups.
- Inspect basement walls for cracks. This includes caulking around windows too. Make repairs as necessary to prevent water from entering your basement.
- Check your landscaping before the snow arrives to ensure the ground slopes away from your home. Add additional soil if necessary to help melting snow flow away from your foundation.
- Check your roof for ice and snow build up. This can lead to ice damages that allow melting snow to enter through your roof.
- Inspect your gutters and downspouts. Clear leaves and other debris regularly during the fall, as this can create blockages. Add downspout extensions to channel melting snow away from your home.
- Test your sump pump during the winter to ensure it works properly when the snow melts. Pour a bucket of water into the sump basin to engage the pump. If it doesn’t turn on, unplug the pump and investigate the issue.
- Never ignore water in your basement. Investigate and repair the source as soon as possible.
- If you have water in your basement or a flood from melting snow, dry and clean the area as quickly as possible.
Most Common Major Cities for Snowmelt Flooding
Although snowmelt flooding can occur anywhere, these are the major cities where it is most common.
- Syracuse, NY – Known as one of the snowiest cities in the country, Syracuse averages more than 120 inches of snow each year.
- Flagstaff, AZ – It may seem unlikely, but Flagstaff gets more than 100 inches of snow each year. Quick thaws combined with dry, compact soil increases the chances of flooding.
- Buffalo, NY – Although it only averages 95 inches of snow each year, heavy lake effect snow and frequent thaws increase the chances of snowmelt flooding in Buffalo.
- Boulder, CO – With nearly 90 inches of average snow each winter, snowmelt runs down from the mountains and poses a significant risk of flooding.
- Cleveland, OH – Despite only getting 68 inches of snow on average, unpredictable weather patterns result in frequent mid-winter thaws.
- Portland, ME – Sitting along the Atlantic Ocean and with Fore River to the South, snowmelt flooding is common in Portland during late winter and spring.
- Minneapolis, MN – With nearly 55 inches of snow each season and plenty of lakes and streams throughout the area, a quick thaw can result in significant snowmelt flooding.
- Denver, CO – Denver averages over 53 inches of snow, with frequent changes in temperature that lead to rapid thaws.
- Detroit, MI – Although Detroit has much lower annual snowfall amounts, it only takes a small amount of snowmelt to overwhelm storm sewers in many areas of the city.
- Kansas City, MO – Despite only getting 15 inches of snow on average, snowmelt flooding is common along the Kansas and Missouri Rivers.
What to do if Your Basement Floods from Melting Snow
1. Remove the Water
Begin extracting the standing water as soon as possible. This helps limit water damage and improve the chances of salvaging your basement. For deeper water, use a bucket to bail out a flooded basement or a pump to extract water.
For shallow floods, use towels, sheets, or a mop to soak up standing water. Wring out soaked materials in a bucket or other container, then pour down a drain after the flooding has subsided. The faster you remove the water, the less damage it will cause. If you don’t have a pump you can rent one from your local equipment rental company.
Once you’ve gotten the majority of the water out, use a wet-dry shop-style vacuum to deal with the remaining water. This is effective at sucking water from carpeting as well as water damaged walls and ceilings.
2. Remove Damage Materials
Now that you’ve removed as much water as possible, it’s time to remove water damaged drywall and other materials. It’s best to remove any material that is already cracked, crumbling, or sagging. However, you can likely dry materials that are only damp. If you need to remove water damage materials, make clean cuts 2 inches away from the damage.
You should also dispose of water damaged paper and cardboard items, as they are hard to save and likely to allow mold to grow. Use thick plastic bags when disposing of water damaged materials to prevent leaks and mold growth.
3. Dry Out Your Flooded Basement
After removing damaged materials, begin drying your basement as quickly as possible. While consumer fans and dehumidifiers will work, you may consider renting commercial air movers and dehumidifiers to ensure a faster drying time. Monitor the progress and relocate fans regularly for the fastest drying time.
Place fans throughout the are to maximize air movement and keep dehumidifiers running by emptying them frequently. Consumer gear may take a week or more to effectively dry your basement after a snowmelt flood, while professional equipment is likely to take half that time.
4. Sanitize and Deodorize
Once the area is completely dry, use chemical disinfectants and deodorizers to prevent odors and mold from developing in the future. Unfortunately, bleach is only effective at killing mold if the area remains completely dry. A hospital-grade sanitizer is more effective at preventing mold and bacteria in the long term. Spray the affected area with sanitizers and deodorizers at least once before making repairs.
5. Repair and Restore the Area
Before you begin rebuilding your basement, investigate the cause of the flood. Look for cracks in your foundation walls or gags in the seam along the floor and walls. Fill cracks with hydraulic cement or caulk to prevent future issues.
If you have widespread water leaks along your foundation walls, consider a permanent solution. This can include waterproofing your foundation walls or installing a sump pump.
Finally, you can begin to restore the area damaged by melting snow. Depending on the extent of the damage, this may involve anything from painting to completely rebuilding the area.
Professional Flooding and Water Damage Restoration
If you have extensive flooding from melting snow, the Restoration Local network of contractors can help. We have local water damage restoration companies across the country to help after a snowmelt flood. We have listings for both independent companies as well as popular brands, including AdvantaClean and Rainbow International.
Find a water damage company near you now or call 1-888-443-3110 to talk to the on-call contractor in your area. Our on-call contractors always offer 24-hour emergency services, a 30-minute response, and a free estimate.