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Many parts of the country have seen some unbelievable weather in the past few weeks. In Michigan, we have had record snowfalls, a brief thaw, and then more snow. We have previously commented in this space how wintry weather contributes to car crashes – a risk with which many long-term residents are familiar. What many people may not expect, however, is the extent of damage that can be caused to their homes, offices, and other buildings by the buildup of ice and snow.

A recent incident in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area serves as a reminder of the potential danger of ice and snow. On December 23, the roof of a popular dollar store collapsed under the weight of wet, heavy snow. The collapse occurred shortly after the store had closed, and thus a tragedy was narrowly averted.

Of course, the risks of snow and ice buildup are not unique to Michigan. In Olympia, Washington, a 2,500 square-foot portion of the roof of a high school collapsed after several storms in the area. Fortunately, the school was in the middle of its holiday break and no one was injured. In Portland, Oregon, snow caused the roof of a major grocery store to collapse just before the building was set to open to customers. Employees were in the building at the time, but no one was injured. Many other similar accidents have occurred over the past two weeks.

Another risk of snow and ice buildup is water damage caused by liquid water seeping into the building. This condition is known as an ice dam. Although the consequences of ice dams are usually less dramatic than a roof collapse, seeping water can cause extensive long-term damage to homes and other structures. Ice dams also contribute to icicle formation, and icicles can and do fall from great heights and cause injury.

This winter season, be alert for the buildup of ice and snow on your roof and at your workplace. A roof collapse can be potentially catastrophic. Carefully remove any excessive buildup to avoid injury and keep your loved ones safe.

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