Placer County advises to clear snow from rooftops prior to incoming rains, observe signs of potential structural failure

Placer County officials are advising residents and businesses in snow-affected areas to safely clear their roofs of snow loads as much as possible prior to the anticipated atmospheric river in the coming days. 

A snow load on a rooftop can become even heavier by absorbing rainwater, which makes a structure even more susceptible to collapse in addition to a higher likelihood of snow sliding and flooding. 

These advisories are in effect for both for the Lake Tahoe and Truckee areas, but also at lower elevations where this year’s snow is well above average. Residents should be especially cautious if they are in a home built prior to the 1960s before Placer County enacted stricter snow-load standards. The Building Services Division of the Placer County Community Development Resource Agency says potential heavy snow danger signs include: 

  • Visual deformation or sagging of beams and other parts of a building’s structural-support system. 
  • Newly developed cracks, particularly any which appear above windows or doors and where beams and other support structures are located. Minor cracks that expand or contract could be indications of building movement. 
  • Doors and windows that suddenly become significantly harder to open or do not open at all, a sign that a building is potentially settling. 
  • Water leaks inside buildings. 
  • Recent buckling of interior or exterior siding and finishes, which may be a symptom of settling. 
  • Sprinkler heads being pushed down below ceiling levels. 

Life safety is of the utmost importance. If there is any doubt about the integrity of a roof in such extreme snow conditions, then the building or area should be evacuated until professional advice can be sought. 

“When in doubt, have a qualified professional check it out,” said Placer County Deputy Director of Building Services Tim Wegner. 

Generally, residents and business owners are not encouraged to try to clear their roofs on a regular basis to avoid a heavy snow, which can be hazardous to clear. Potential dangers include injuries caused by falling snow; roof damage caused by removing snow from some areas but leaving heavy snow loads in others; unbalanced unloading of the snow can create unstable conditions and potential building collapse; and electrical hazards from coming into contact with overhead power lines and electrical service drops that are no longer visible or too close to the walking surface. 

If a heavy snow load has already been allowed to accumulate, a professional service may be needed to safely remove the snow from your roof.  

Residents and businesses should also monitor roof vents, chimneys, and flues for blockage due to snow build-up. These systems need unobstructed access to outside air to properly ventilate. Blockages can lead to carbon monoxide build-up in buildings creating a potentially unsafe interior environment. The heavy snow may also cause chimneys to shift creating potential falling hazards. 

Anyone who smells propane or natural gas inside or outside a building should call 911 immediately. They also should avoid smoking, starting engines or motors, turning on cooking appliances, using heating-air conditioning systems or using other ignition sources. 

For up-to-date winter storm information from Placer County, visit