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4/28/2014 - With winter over, spring thaw arrives

Just when it looked as though we might be out of the woods, there is another weather phenomenon to be cognizant of: spring thaw.

Besides the rare exceptions of Florida and Hawaii, where temperatures are almost always warm, winter 2014 has been the season that just wouldn't quit.

Consider the fact that as little as one week before the official start of spring, the National Weather Service was forecasting as many as 20 inches of snow for parts of the Midwest. Additionally, several days after the vernal equinox, New England meteorologists were preparing residents for some snow due to temperatures being stuck below the freezing point.

Or how about the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, which released some tips in the middle of March about how to determine if one's roof is being weighed down by too much snow and what to do in order to remove it.

At long last, though, Mother Nature seems to finally be cooperating, with temperatures climbing and the white stuff melting. However, just when it looked as though we might be out of the woods, there is another weather phenomenon to be cognizant of: spring thaw.

What is it?
Spring thaw is just as its description suggests, which is when frozen land and snow begins to melt. Problems can occur, though, when the snow melts at such a rapid rate that the water has nowhere to go because the ground isn't absorbing it quickly enough. What can then result is localized flooding, which can do a number on people's property if they're not prepared.

With this in mind, here are some basic tips that can be done around the home in the event spring thaw leads to flooding concerns.

Perhaps the easiest thing to do is clean out the gutters and downspouts. In the course of several months, these can get clogged up with debris and ice pellets. With snow melting off the roof and gutters full, they may not be able to channel the water away effectively. Having them cleaned out can help solve this problem.

Examine roof
The roof can also be vulnerable to spring thaw if there are any missing shingles. This may have gone unnoticed if the roof was covered with snow for most of the winter, but with a lot of it gone, wind may have knocked some shingles off. Make sure that these are replaced as soon as possible to prevent water from leaking into the home and potentially damaging the ceiling.

Something else to be mindful of is the home's sump pump if one has been installed. Groundwater levels can be high because of spring thaw, which may lead to issues with the sewer system. Ensure that the sump pump is working properly and the back flow valves are functioning normally.

For more tips about how to handle spring thaw, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has some additional recommendations, such as making sure to have one's flood insurance policy updated.

Snowmelt, which results from spring thaw, isn't something that only homeowners need to be concerned about. It also impacts entrepreneurs who may own a small business. FEMA recently released a three-minute web video about a couple whose restaurant was severely damaged due to the effects of flooding. Were it not for flood insurance, they may have been forced to closed their doors permanently.

For more information on snow melt and how to combat the effects of spring thaw, be sure to talk to your local Selective agent.

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