Melting Snow: A Surprising Source of Flood Damage

Winter floods can sometimes take homeowners by surprise, as flood damage is most often associated with warm weather events such as heavy rains or hurricanes. But when heavy rain turns to heavy snow, the risk of flood damage doesn’t exactly disappear – it just looks a little bit different.

Melting Snow and Ice

There are a number of reasons for winter flooding, but one of the most common causes is the melting snow and ice. Recently winter storm Diego dumped heavy snow and damaging ice across the Southeast. Diego’s highest snowfall total was 34 inches at Mount Mitchell in western North Carolina. Whitetop, and southwestern Virginia had the second-most snow with 24 inches. Other parts of Virginia, including Richmond and Roanoke, saw between 11 and 15 inches of snowfall from the two-day storm.

On average, every six inches of snowpack creates approximately one inch of water when melted. As temperatures rise above freezing, the snow melts and the water flows in its natural path downstream toward the nearest lake, river, creek or other body of water. In residential areas, that usually means streets and drainage systems are left to handle the flowing mess. A large amount of snow melt can quickly overwhelm drainage systems, causing water to flow wherever it can, including into nearby yards and homes.

Protecting Homes from Winter Flooding

Homeowners that live in areas prone to heavy snow buildup may want to take steps to protect their homes from winter flooding. Below are some steps that homeowners can take to help mitigate the effects of snow and ice melt.

  • Patch cracks and seal leaks. Water from melting snow and ice typically finds its way into homes through tiny cracks in the foundation, walls and ceilings that homeowners weren’t aware of. There is a wide variety of products available for purchase that can seal any cracks or gaps, preventing unwanted water from entering the home, or homeowners can hire a professional to inspect for and seal cracks and leaks.
  • Keep the roof, gutters and drains clear. Some roof leaks are caused by snow and ice getting trapped under shingles and eaves, which can damage the structure of the roof. Removing ice and snow that has accumulated on the roof can help maintain its structural integrity. Gutters should also be inspected regularly to make sure they are working well and are not blocked by debris.
  • Prepare for the worst. Homeowners should always hope for the best, but prepare for the worst case scenario. Of course it’s crucial to prevent flooding from happening in the first place, but it’s also important to have a plan in place in the event flooding does occur. Valuable property, family photos, heirlooms and important paperwork should always be stored in waterproof storage containers in parts of the home that can’t easily be compromised by flooding. Homeowners in low-lying areas may want to invest in a sump pump so that water can be removed quickly if it does begin to enter the home. Lastly, it’s important to check that your private flood insurance coverage is up-to-date, with policy limits that reflect the current replacement value of the home and the belongings inside of it.

About Wilmington Insurance Agency

Wilmington Insurance Agency delivers comprehensive coastal property solutions. We are a Managing General Agency and provide independent insurance agents with property and liability insurance solutions for residents and businesses primarily in Maryland and Virginia. We work alongside our sister company, Wilmington Insurance Company, established in 1996 and providing Property & Casualty commercial lines business, homeowners, and condominium insurance in the state of Delaware. To learn more about how we can help you to expand your book of business in the coastal market, contact us at (302) 231-2800.