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Clear roofs, check drainage gratings before snowstorm, experts advise

Ed Kozolski and his son Nolan, 9, shovel

Ed Kozolski and his son Nolan, 9, shovel snow from the front of their home on Fire Island Avenue in Babylon on Monday. Credit: James Carbone

As Long Island braced for a snow dump predicted to hit on Sunday — before the piles of snow from the last storm could melt away — local storm damage experts said homeowners should clear roofs of snow accumulation and make sure that drainage grating around the home was up to par.

With just 4 to 9 inches of snow in the forecast, the three experts interviewed said they wouldn’t worry too much about roofs collapsing, but the freezing temperatures in the coming days raised alarms about icy driveways and freezing pipes.

"From an insurance perspective, one of the big concerns is the weight of snow and ice can cause damage on other structures, not necessarily the primary dwelling," said David W. Clausen, chief executive of Coastal Insurance Solutions, an insurance agency in Rocky Point. "If you have a shed or a detached garage, those are usually excluded from a homeowners’ policy, so you want to be mindful of those and make sure you don’t have a ton of snow and ice on them."

Homeowners should clear snow off sheds and garages with flat roofs, said Richard Dank, a public insurance adjuster with Public Adjusters for Long Island in Jericho.

"If you still have a lot of snow on your roof, especially if you have a flat roof, it’s not the easiest thing to do in this weather, but grab a broom with a long enough handle and see if you can get some of that snow off if you see a lot piling up," said Dank, whose job is to advocate for policyholders when negotiating insurance claims.

Clausen said this is the time of year when he sees slipping and falling claims uptick because of ice on a property.

"I think the biggest thing is the refreeze on slippery surfaces like driveways, for example, which is where we see those slip-and-fall claims from people getting hurt because it wasn’t properly cleared," Clausen said. "Make sure you salt those patches of ice and you might want to make sure you’re using pet-friendly salt products if you have pets."

Clausen also said to make sure that drainage grating is installed and working properly.

"Most policies will not cover water finding its way into the basement from improper grating. Once water or snow hits the ground and it finds its way into the house — that’s not covered," Clausen said.

In the coming days, a polar vortex from Canada and through the Midwest is expected to bring frigid temperatures, with highs in the 20s. The experts said they were concerned about pipes freezing from the cold air.

"We’re more concerned about the weather being much colder where you could potentially get frozen pipes," Dank said. "You might be in a house for years and never have a frozen pipe. But if the temperature gets cold enough and gets into the crevices and cracks of the house, you could get one pipe that freezes. It just gets worse from there."

Once the weather warms up, a frozen pipe could burst, and the water could cause severe damage to a home, he said.

"You want to make sure your thermostats are at a minimum of 50 degrees," said Tom Unverzagt, home inspector at WIN Home Inspection, which services properties on the East End. "If you’re not going to be home on a particularly cold night, kitchen sink cabinet doors should be left open to allow the warmer air throughout the house to get under the cabinet and warm up those pipes."

Dank advised those with oil-based heating systems to make sure there is enough oil in the tank.

"If you have a frozen-pipe situation, the first thing the insurance companies will look at is your oil records to make sure you had oil in the tank," Dank said. "Anybody with oil, make sure you top off your tank."

Tips for homeowners:

Review your homeowners insurance policy

Make sure gutters are clear to keep ice from accumulating

Invest in a roof brush or rake to help push snow off a roof

Caulk cracks and crevices to keep cold air out

Leave kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open to let warm air near the pipes

If leaving home overnight or for days, keep the heat on

Sources: David W. Clausen of Coastal Insurance Solutions, Tom Unverzagt of WIN Home Inspection and Richard Dank of Public Adjusters for Long Island.

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