Can Spring Snowmelt Cause Flooding in Minnesota in 2019?

In Minnesota, a new record for the most snowfall in February was set this year. Six inches of snowfall fell in the southeastern part of the state, while New Ulm was pummeled with 14.6 inches of snow. Overall, the Twin Cities experienced a record-breaking 39 inches of snowfall in February 2019.

Given the record-setting snowfalls this winter, Minnesota could undergo flooding in springtime. The likelihood of flooding will cause plenty of concern for Minnesotans. With the combination of excessive spring rains and snowmelt, the chances of flooding are dangerously doubled.

What exactly is snowmelt?

Snowmelt can be defined as the melting snow that runs off natural surfaces. The season when runoff is produced can also be called snowmelt. When the snowmelt occurs rapidly, severe flooding can result. When snowmelt refreezes, the resulting icy conditions can cause accidents.

Snowmelt takes on hazardous proportions when massive amounts of snow and ice accumulate during the several months of winter. As soon as springtime’s warm weather hits, large amounts of snowmelt release and contribute to the extensive flooding of nearby areas.

Fortunately, snowmelt can be predicted—but not always. When available, accurate predictions contribute to the design and success of water-control projects.

Spring Creek Alpine Village Landscape in Canmore, Alberta and distant snowy Three Sisters Rocky Mountain Tops near Banff National Park Canada

Depending on the classification of snowmelt, the runoff can carry atmospheric pollutants and be relatively toxic.

How is snowmelt categorized?

Classifications exist for different types of snowmelt. For example, snowplows push snow from paved parking lots and roads. Over the winter, this snow accumulates pollutants and affects the quality of the runoff. When warm weather melts this snow, the runoff drains into local storm drains.

Another type of snowmelt is one that occurs in open spaces away from well-developed residential areas. The snowmelt largely contributes to the volume of water released in spring weather. The ground becomes saturated with the snowmelt until the soil reaches its infiltration capacity.

Depending on the classification of snowmelt, the runoff can carry atmospheric pollutants and be relatively toxic. Examples of the pollutants that may be present in meltwater include solids, chemicals, metals and nutrients. Less worrisome pollutants include pesticides, fertilizers and salts.

How does rain increase flooding?

The phenomenon known as rain-on-snow occurs when rain falls onto existing snow packs. Downstream flooding and the loss of life are the catastrophic consequences of rain-on-snow events. Rain that falls upon snow and freezes creates dangerous situations for people, especially motorists, and animals.

With rain, precipitation is increased and has less chances of evaporating. Heavy rainfalls have nowhere to go when the usual drainage routes, like sewers and creeks, are obstructed with packed snow and ice. Plus, when frost solidifies the ground, rainwater cannot soak into the soil.

Typically, rainfalls are absorbed once the ground and waterways are thawed in early spring. In 2019, however, the rains are falling atop existing snow packs in the Minnesota region. Consequently, the likelihood of flooding is high in the creek that runs through Minneapolis, Hopkins and Minnetonka. For Minnesotans, this rain-on-snow is an unprecedented weather event.

Minnesota’s daytime temperatures in March 2019 hover around the mid-30s, while nighttime temps drop to subfreezing. As a result, the drastic contrast from day to night temperatures and the presence of meltwater make morning commutes icy and hazardous.

How can Minnesotans prepare for flooding?

Minnesota homeowners who do not have a separate flood insurance policy should purchase one as soon as possible. As a standard rule, flood damage is rarely covered by a homeowner’s insurance policy. Rather, the National Flood Insurance Program offers flood insurance.

Minnesotans also should be aware that flood insurance policies from the National Flood Insurance Program take effect 30 days after the initial purchase. Homeowners and business owners should be prepared with an effective flood insurance policy well before the springtime thaw.

What are the dangers of flooding?

Snowmelt is likely to cause flooding. A consequence of excessive flooding is water damage. Properties situated near creeks or rivers are at a higher risk of flooding. However, even the basements of structures built away from bodies of water can flood as a result of snowmelt.

What are ways to address flooding?

Protect the home’s foundation by shoveling a five-foot area around the perimeter of the foundation; also remove snow from the roof. Any foundation cracks should be sealed promptly. Test the sump pump to ensure it functions. Plus, the gutter’s down spouts should drain several feet away from the property.

What are signs of water damage caused by snowmelt?

If the basement displays new cracks in the foundation, structural damage has occurred. A mold outbreak is also a sign that excess moisture is present, possibly due to a basement leak, and must be addressed immediately. Mold spores can grow within 24 to 48 hours.

Minnesota’s late winter thaw could lead to massive spring snowmelt, especially given February’s heavy snows. With cities, like Rochester, St. Cloud and Duluth, experiencing record-breaking snows, at 40 inches, 27.6 inches and 36.4 inches respectively, the Minnesota spring will be a wet one.

Prepare for spring’s unleashing of meltwater by purchasing flood insurance if you do not already have it and keeping the contact information handy of a dependable flood damage cleanup expert. ServiceMaster Professional Services provides swift water damage restoration services for Minnesotans every day of the year.

Included in ServiceMaster Professional Services lineup of comprehensive services are a prompt assessment of the water damage, extraction of the excess moisture, an anti-microbial application to deter water-borne bacteria and a thorough drying of the premises. Experienced and highly trained technicians professionally handle all aspects of the water damage restoration process.

Water damage is an emergency situation. If not treated immediately, permanent structural damage and mold infestations will occur. ServiceMaster Professional Services is available to tackle any level of water damage, whether due to spring snowmelt, spring flooding or any other natural or manmade cause.

ServiceMaster Professional Services is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to respond to your water damage emergency. Our specialists serve the surrounding communities of Minneapolis, St. Cloud, Hutchinson, Marshall and Willmar, Minnesota, and stand by to take your call.


The Dangers of DIY Mold Removal

When mold is present on your property, it’s concerning. Not only does it have an unsightly appearance, but it can also cause structural damage to your home or building, eating away at the affected materials. Even worse, mold growth can cause health problems in those who are exposed. The longer the mold is present, the more damage it can cause you, your property, and anyone who inhabits the space. Knowing all of this, it’s important to act right away when you find that mold has grown in your home or business.

You may take it upon yourself to clean up the fungus through do-it-yourself techniques, but such home remedies should be met with caution. If you conduct mold cleanup yourself, you may think you’re saving time and money, but you won’t necessarily be fixing the problem. In fact, cleaning mold by using do-it-yourself methods can worsen the problem in various ways and put yourself at a much higher risk of associated health effects. The following explains the dangers that DIY mold removal presents.

Health Concerns and Lack of Protection

If a person becomes exposed to mold, then the fungus can cause them to experience health issues like coughing, nasal congestion, and skin irritation among other problems. If someone also has respiratory problems or allergies, then the health concerns that mold presents can be even greater.

If you choose to clean mold yourself, you’re willingly exposing yourself to it and the health issues it causes. You need to wear proper protective gear to protect yourself from mold’s ill effects, and you need to handle mold properly in order to prevent it from spreading and further contaminating the property. However, such protective gear cannot just be found anywhere, and even using a dust mask won’t provide sufficient protection from the mold.

Professionals from a mold remediation company are properly equipped with personal protective gear that guards themselves against the health problems mold causes. They also have the necessary training to safely handle mold and its cleanup, conducting work in a way that prevents it from spreading and causing more health problems.

Insufficient Mold Removal

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Mould and damp staining painted wall surface around an internal home window.

Even if you’re able to remove mold from your property, you are likely just eliminating visible mold. To sufficiently remove mold, you need to work at it from its source and solve the causal issue. If you don’t address the source, then the problem will likely reemerge. However, finding the source of the mold isn’t always easy.

Mold thrives in moist environments, so looking for excess moisture can help you find the source. Some common causes for mold include appliance malfunctions and leaky pipes. But knowing common causes of mold doesn’t guarantee you will find the mold growth’s source. It can be easy to overlook certain areas, especially when you’re not trained on where to look for moisture issues. Professionals trained in mold removal know where to look and how to find the source of the mold. This helps them resolve the causal issue to ensure the mold problem is thoroughly addressed.

Ineffective Mold Cleaning

While any mold growth in your residential or commercial property is concerning, there are some types of mold that are more hazardous than others. Some of them can also be more difficult to clean. That said, there are cleaning methods that won’t work on some types of mold. If you do try do-it-yourself techniques, you may find them to be ineffective or create a worse problem.

To know how to effectively clean mold, you need to be able to identify the type of mold. However, everyday people without extensive mold knowledge won’t be able to do that. In order to determine the type of mold growing within your property, mold testing needs to be done by a professional mold inspection service.

Lack of Mold Removal Resources and Expertise

For mold to be thoroughly and safely removed from a property, you need to use specialized cleaning products and equipment, and you need to have the proper training and knowledge. If you decide to do DIY mold removal but don’t have the right equipment and products, or know what you’re doing, then there’s a good chance of worsening your mold growth problem. Because of the issues mold presents, that’s the last thing anyone would want. However, this won’t be the case if you seek help from professional mold remediation services. Even better, you won’t have to further expose yourself to mold, limiting your risk of health effects.

From air filtration devices to personal protective gear to proper training, technicians who provide professional mold remediation services can effectively and efficiently remove mold from your contaminated property.

At ServiceMaster Professional Services, we provide complete mold removal with our mold remediation services. Our technicians will be protected throughout the entire removal process to avoid the negative health effects associated with mold. We will locate and fix the moisture source causing the mold outbreak, clean or replace the affected area, and work to prevent further mold growth.


What to Do If You Experience Winter Storm Damage

When the winter season comes, one of the things it brings is snow. When snow falls from the sky, it can create a beautiful scene: fresh, soft blankets of white snow glistening when the light hits it just right, embodying the vision of a winter wonderland. Kids find fun in it, building snowmen and having snowball fights. But in the midst of that fun and beauty also comes potential danger.

Winter also brings severely cold temperatures, which can become cold enough to threaten the well-being of you, your family, and even your home. Ice forms on streets and sidewalks, posing a hazard to any pedestrians taking on sidewalks and vehicles taking on the roadways. When a snow storm hits, inches upon inches of fluffy snow can block entryways and take over streets.

If you aren’t prepared for a winter storm, then it can be stressful to deal with, especially if the storm causes damage to your property. Freezing temperatures can cause pipes to burst and lead to water damage in your home. Strong winds can knock down branches and trees that end up falling onto your property. Large amounts of snow sitting on your roof can become too heavy and threaten its protective purpose and collapse.

In the event that your property suffers damage from a winter storm, use the following information as a guide on how to respond and prevent future winter storm damage.

Responding to Winter Storm Damage

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Tree fallen down the road in snow storm

Ensure Everyone’s Safety

In any hazardous situation, the first priority is safety. No matter how bad the damage is, first check to make sure your family is all safe and accounted for.

Find Shelter from the Storm

Once everyone has been accounted for, gather your family together. Find a spot where your family can stay away from the damage and stay warm and safe. This shelter can be an unaffected, intact room in your home, or it can be your neighbor’s or relative’s place if it’s best to leave the property.

If your home has suffered serious damage, then you must find temporary housing. You and your family should not risk staying at home if it jeopardizes their safety, especially if the blizzard is still ongoing. If this is the case for you, keep receipts for any living expenses. This temporary housing may be covered by your insurance.

Document the Storm Damage

You will need evidence of any damage your home has suffered to provide to your insurance company later on. Take photos and/or record videos of the damage the storm has caused, and make sure those files are accessible and backed up. It’s important to remember to not tamper with the damage before you’re able to document it.

Prevent Further Damage

Salvage what personal belongings you can to prevent them from becoming permanently damaged. Then take the necessary steps to prevent any damage from worsening. For example, stop snow and water from leaking into your home to cause more harm. Board up broken doors, windows, and other openings to stop snow and cold from coming in. Keep receipts of any materials used and work that was done for the temporary fixes. Make sure the actions you’re taking, though, are temporary solutions. You should not conduct any permanent repairs or restorations until you’ve contacted your insurance company and agreed upon the repair cost coverage.

Contact Your Insurance Provider

When the storm has concluded, get in touch with your insurance provider right away. The sooner you are able to meet with a representative and have the damage assessed, the sooner you can have your property restored. Make sure you’re able to provide necessary evidence and documents on hand.

Winter Storm Damage Insurance Coverage

Standard homeowner policies will cover various types of damage caused by a winter storm:

  • Wind damage
  • Damage from fallen trees and other objects
  • Collapsing structure due to heavy ice and/or snow

If your home’s pipes burst, then this may be covered by your insurance. However, it may not be if your insurance provider deems negligence: improper maintenance by failing to insulate pipes or not keeping the home at the necessary temperature.

Winter Storm Damage Prevention

Regular Maintenance

If your home isn’t in good condition, then the chance for it to suffer from storm damage is higher. It’s especially important to regularly inspect your roof, conduct repairs, and install upgrades when needed. Your home’s roof is the main source of protection from the outside weather, so you need to take care of it. Otherwise, it won’t be an effective form of protection.

Insulate Your Home

Keep the cold out by properly insulating your home. You don’t want to waste money on heating your home only to realize that you aren’t effectively heating it and, instead, are wasting money and energy. Weather-strip windows and doors to stop air leaks and keep heated air in your home.

Insulate your pipes to prevent them from bursting. When the temperature is cold enough, water inside the pipes will freeze. Upon freezing, the water expands in size. If the water expands enough, it will place pressure on the pipe and cause it to burst open, damaging your property and belongings. If you fail to properly insulate your pipes, then any pipes that do burst likely won’t be covered by your insurance provider, citing your negligence to conduct proper maintenance.

To prevent pipes from freezing, let faucets drip. Even the slightest drip will help.

Clear Out Snow

Remove snow from your roof so it doesn’t accumulate too much and put the roof at risk for collapse. Shovel snow to keep it away from your home and its foundation. This will limit the potential for the snow to seep into your home and damage the structure.

Landscape and Yard Maintenance

If you have trees close to your home, be sure to trim them regularly so that they cannot break off and harm your home. Clean out your gutters so that they can properly drain and direct any water away from your home. Check that the downspouts also direct water far enough away from your home to avoid foundational damage.

Professional Restoration Services

If your home has suffered damage from a winter storm, ServiceMaster Professional Services can help. We provide storm damage restoration services to help homes and businesses recover from winter storms and the destruction they can cause. Our technicians have the proper training and equipment to stabilize your property’s structure, conduct structural repairs, perform water damage restoration, and remove debris.


How to Improve the Energy Efficiency in Your Home for the Winter

The outdoors’ biting cold can seep into a heated home, stressing homeowners who have to turn up the heat, and, subsequently, see a spike in their heating costs. Energy efficiency can be improved. Most tactics are cost efficient. Others may require a small investment in time and money. Once enhancements are made, homeowners will be relieved to see a significant reduction in their home energy bills. Energy.gov says that combining the following strategies reduces a home’s energy bill by 30 percent.

Energy Audit

A professional energy assessment from an energy survey professional is a good place to start on your quest to improve your home’s energy efficiency. An energy audit points a homeowner to how energy is lost in the home, where energy losses occur and what systems are working efficiently or inefficiently.

The most thorough energy audit is the general energy audit. Diagnostic testing with high-tech gear is performed. Tests are done with equipment, like duct leakage testers, infrared cameras and a combustion analyzer. The advanced technology allows the home energy auditor to reveal air leaks in the home, the efficiency of insulation in the walls and ceilings and the extent of air leakages from HVAC ducts.

An energy survey is a basic assessment that is performed without diagnostic equipment. A visual inspection takes into account the ages of doors, windows and heating systems. The auditor looks for condensation buildup.

Homeowners can also perform a do-it-yourself energy audit. While not as thorough as an audit performed by a professional, the DIY route can lead you to drafty doors, less-than-recommended insulation levels and inefficient lightbulbs.

Lights

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When you are at home, set the thermostat to the lowest yet most comfortable temperature to reduce energy consumption.

Lighting makes up 10 percent of a home’s energy costs, according to Energy.gov. Replace inefficient bulbs with energy efficient ones, such as LED lights, incandescent lighting or compact fluorescent lamps. A homeowner’s electrical utility company may offer rebates when energy efficient lighting is used. Plus, you can save on lighting bills by utilizing dimmers, timers and sensors.

Drafts

Drafty windows and doors leak cold air into the home. Identify leaks by simply feeling for cold air around the door and window frames. Alternately, light a candle, hover it around the door and window frames and watch for flickering—an indication of an air leak.

Two ways of sealing the air leaks are with caulk or weather stripping. When caulking, it is important to remove the old caulk first. When using weather stripping, apply either V strips, foam tape or felt.

Plus, installing a clear, plastic film over the windows during the winter acts as a barrier against the infiltration of cold air.

Thick drapes also block cold drafts. Keep the shades or drapes closed at night, and they will provide added insulation.

Thermostat

When you are at home, set the thermostat to the lowest yet most comfortable temperature to reduce energy consumption. The recommended setting is 68 degrees Fahrenheit for times when the home is occupied. When asleep or no one is at home, anywhere from 62 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal.

One tactic that may help homeowners become acclimated to cooler indoor temperatures is to set the thermostat to a desired temperature. Once members of the household become used to the set temperature, reduce the thermostat by one degree every week. Gradually, people at home will become accustomed to the lower temps. The US Department of Energy says homeowners save one percent on energy bills for every degree of reduction.

Insulation

Older homes are likely to feature inadequate insulation. In the attic, perform a check to determine whether or not the insulation is blocking the attic vents. The entire attic floor should feature a layer of insulation. The crawl space should also be insulated with the recommended level of insulation, which is an R-value of 25. Insulation is also necessary around the water heater, furnace ducts and hot water plumbing pipes.

Water Heater

Lowering the temperature setting on the water heater reduces the winter water bill. Set the dial to the warm setting of 120 degrees Fahrenheit to achieve significant energy savings. Scalding water is rarely a daily necessity.

Fireplace

Unless you’re burning a fire, the fireplace damper should be kept shut. Heated indoor air can escape through an open damper, which is the equivalent of leaving a window open in the dead of winter. Burning a fire is a great reason to turn down the thermostat to 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

If your fireplace is left unused, seal the chimney flue. A tight seal prevents indoor heat from gushing out. The fireplace hearth also should be sealed with caulk to reduce heat loss.

Furnace

As any homeowner will attest, heating the home consumes more energy than any other system—42 percent of the energy bill, according to Energy.gov.

Schedule furnace maintenance and cleanings annually, ideally before winter. The furnace filters should be replaced monthly, or as necessary.

Experts recommend replacing a furnace over 15 years old with a more energy efficient unit. A poorly working furnace pulls more energy. A newer furnace model consumes far less energy when in operation.

When you are in the market for energy efficient heating systems, consider active solar heating, radiant heating to heat floors, heat distribution systems and portable heaters.

When homeowners spend more time indoors during the height of the cold season, they should consider a professional air duct cleaning. ServiceMaster Professional Services provides exceptional air duct cleaning services that improve the air quality within your home.

Indoor air pollution results from pets, smoking indoors, recent home remodeling or construction and when a home’s ducts have not been cleaned in 10 years. Dust trails that emerge out of the air duct registers are a clear signal of poor indoor air quality. Anyone who suffers from respiratory conditions or allergies will benefit from the clean air that results from a professional air duct cleaning.

ServiceMaster Professional Services reliably serves the residential communities of Minneapolis, Minnesota.


Tips to Help You Winterize your Home Before the Winter Season

When winter approaches, people always prepare themselves for the snow and cold weather by getting out their bulky coats, sweaters, and shoes that will keep them warm and protect them from the cold. But you and your family aren’t the only ones who need to be prepped for winter. You need to prepare your home, too. The cold weather and the snow and ice that come with it can put great stress on your home. If you don’t properly prepare your home to handle the winter weather, you could experience property damage or pay extra to heat your home if it is not being heated efficiently.

Every homeowner should make sure that their home is winterized so that it is ready to handle the cold, snowy weather of the season. From making sure your home is properly and effectively heated to preventing burst pipes, you can refer to the following tips when winterizing your home this season.

Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned and Furnace Inspected

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Inspect your furnace before the cold weather hits.

Ideally, you want to have your home’s air ducts cleaned and furnace inspected before the cold weather hits. This allows time for any repairs or replacements to be made before you begin to frequently heat your home. Plus, cleaning and inspections ensure that the air ducts and furnace are effective and run efficiently when needed which helps prevent breakdowns save you money on your heating costs.

It’s additionally important to replace your furnace’s air filters on a regular basis so that it can capture dirt and other debris, giving your home clean air. The cold weather already makes it easier to get sick, so you want to limit the potential for illness as much as possible.

Weatherstrip Your Home

Check for cracks near your home’s windows, doors, corners, and chimney. Even if there isn’t any damage, cold air may seep in from outside in the spaces in doorways and windows. If you have this problem, seal the openings with caulk to keep the cold air out and the warm air in. You don’t want to be spending money heating your home only for that warmth to be escaping outdoors.

Reverse Your Ceiling Fan Rotation

If you have ceiling fans, then you can help heat your home further by reversing the blades’ rotation. When you reverse the rotation of a ceiling fan to run clockwise, the fan pushes the heated air downward and circulates it throughout room.

Prepare Your Landscape and Yard

Check the trees in your yard and see if the branches are too long and come into contact with your home or electrical wires. If they do, trim them so they don’t pose a threat to your home or the electrical wires. Winter storms with ice, snow, and strong winds can break them off and knock them into whatever is near them.

In addition, take your more sensitive plants inside to protect them from the cold.

Insulate Your Home and Its Pipes

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When it’s cold enough, water inside the pipes will freeze and expand, applying pressure on the frozen pipes from within which causes them to burst.

If your home doesn’t have the ideal 12 inches of insulation, consider adding more to keep your home warm and efficiently heated. It’s also essential to insulate the water pipes in your home to prevent them from freezing up, bursting, and then causing water damage.

When it’s cold enough, water inside the pipes will freeze and expand, applying pressure on the frozen pipes from within which causes them to burst. The water that spills out will spread and cause damage to your home and personal belongings. The repairs for water damage can be costly, so it’s smart to spend money on pipe insulation now to prevent them from bursting, saving you money in the long run. You can get pipe-wrap insulation and tubular sleeve insulation made from different materials and they are very easy to install.

As the winter approaches, winterizing your home is an important task to take. You can help improve and maintain the efficiency of your heating system and prevent damage from winter storms and frozen pipes. If you do have a burst pipe in your home due to cold temperatures, you should act immediately to prevent the water damage from becoming worse. With time, water damage can lead to mold growth and structural issues, so it’s important to get help right away.

At ServiceMaster Professional Services, we can help homes and businesses that have experienced a burst pipe with our water damage restoration services. Through these services, we will inspect your property and the extent of the damage, extract the water to prevent further harm, and thoroughly clean and dry your home. We can also help homes and buildings that have been damaged by a winter storm with our storm damage restoration services. Our professionals will handle everything from the initial stabilization to the reconstruction of your property to get it back to its normal condition after a storm.


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