So Much Snow Means Ice Dams and Blocked Drains are a Real Problem in Calgary

So Much Snow Means Ice Dams and Blocked Drains are a Real Problem in Calgary

So much snow has fallen in Calgary this winter that all of the city’s winter storage sites are so full the snow that it is not likely to completely melt until fall, according to this article by the CBC. More than 140 centimetres (55 inches) has come down since October, much of which has been hauled away to sites in the northeast, the southeast and just west of the downtown.

After four generations in the snow removal business in Calgary, we honestly believe we have hauled away more snow than every before. Our commercial snowpiles are towering high, and we, like all other people in Calgary, are hoping for a slow melt in order to reduce the risk of a flood.

Alberta Environment has stringent guidelines on where excess snow can be safely disposed, to which all private contractors and business owners must adhere to avoid fines and penalties. Since snow in urban areas can become mixed with contaminants such as suspended solids, organic chemicals, phosphates, dissolved salts, heavy metals, trash, and oil, when melted, large amounts may pose a threat to the environment. The CBC reports that after the 20 metres of snow melts in Calgary’s storage sites, there will be about 20 to 30 loads of garbage left behind to be taken away by dump trucks.

Check Your Gutters for Ice Dams

With such an unprecedented amount of snowfall, gutters and eavestroughs can be the sources of major problems if they’re were properly cleaned and maintained before the cold and snowy weather hit. If your eaves and gutters are clogged with debris that prevents water from draining properly, two major problems can occur.

First, the trapped debris will mix with draining water, which can then cause it to freeze into a thick mass. If this mass is large enough, it can actually buckle the metal in your eavestroughs, bending it out of shape and opening the door to a whole host of potential drainage problems.

Also, the risk of developing ice dams in Calgary has increased greatly. Ice dams occur when water can’t drain from your eaves into your gutters, and ends up being pushed back up your roof and seeping under your shingles. This situation can result in significant and costly structural damage to your roof. While other factors, such as inadequate attic insulation, contribute to ice dams, they are often caused or worsened by clogged roof drainage pathways.

Insulation helps prevent ice dams on the interior side of your roof by inhibiting heat transfer. When heating your home in the winter, warm air naturally rises. You need an insulation barrier in your attic to prevent that warmth from melting the snow on your roof, as ice dams can occur if that melted snow re-freezes.

How to Keep Drainage Channels Clean and Clear

If you want to save some money and clean your eavestroughs and gutters yourself, safety is a critical consideration. Make sure you have all the necessary equipment, and take your time. A fleeting moment of carelessness is all it takes to cause an accident.

You will need:

  • A sturdy extendable ladder
  • Rubber gloves
  • Long-sleeved clothing
  • A tarp
  • Plastic scoop or handheld shovel

The technique is simple: simply spread the tarp on the ground near the part of the house where you’re working. Extend the ladder, make sure it’s sturdy, then climb up. Use the scoop or handheld shovel to remove debris, and deposit the material you remove on the tarp for easy cleanup.

A few safety tips:

  • Don’t reach. Instead, climb down, move the ladder over, and climb back up.
  • Avoid twisting and turning when you deposit the debris you’ve removed. 
  • Work on a clear, dry day.

Beware of Melting Snow

Another thing to keep in mind is that snow can melt very quickly in Alberta. Chinook effects can quickly erase accumulated snowfall, and spring brings a real risk of flooding in the region.

Here are some quick flood prevention tips from the Calgary snow removal experts at Mirage Landscaping:

  • Have your property professionally graded to help direct water away from your house rather than toward it
  • Consider adding a retaining wall if your property has hills or steep slopes
  • Make sure your eaves and gutters are properly maintained and fully functional

Trust the Expert Snow Removal Crews at Mirage Landscaping

Make winter a lot easier by trusting the professionals at Mirage Landscaping for all your Calgary snow removal needs. Our expert crews work quickly after a snowfall, helping homes and businesses stay fully accessible and compliant with city bylaws.

You’ll be surprised to learn just how affordable our Calgary commercial and residential snow removal services are. To get started, please contact us to request a quote.


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