Bomb Cyclone

We were told the schools were closed, the roads were closed, and the government offices were closed, but at 8am March 13th everything looked fine. A slight drizzle, but nothing as severe as all the news outlets were blaring their horns about. I figured worst case scenario it was going to get a little snowy out there. Maybe I’d be shoveling some in the evening.

Then 930am rolled around and things started to change. Rain turned to snow, but it was still warm enough to melt on the ground. It was pretty wet out there. We went from wet, to sleet, to snowfall. Then the snow went from falling more or less straight down, to blowing horizontally. 

And an hour later it was a full on blizzard with whiteout conditions. The temperature dropped and all that water turned to ice, and snow the snow kept blowing in. What businesses had remained open, sent their customers and employees home to try to avoid disaster on the roads but there was a 50 car pile-up on the interstate and many roads became impassible. Many people had to be bussed out of their trapped vehicles.

Normally in conditions like this, you expect things like frozen pipes, ice-dams to cause backup, or melting drifts to cause flooding in a house with a negative slope (or grading). We heard some of that. But the real surprise was what happened after the storm, and the following 2 days of melting.

So first, let’s talk about this picture.

Those little vents you see there are called soffit vents. They are installed into the underside of your home’s eaves (called the soffit) which let outside air flow through your attic. Cooler fresh air is drawn up through the soffit at the base of your roof and hot and humid air is expelled through the roof vents at the top. It prevents humidity causing wood damage or rot, and is good design feature in your home.

We are all on the same page about it.

 A couple of days later, a man noticed his chandelier was dripping. Then he noticed the ceiling was wet and leaking, even though it was a bright beautiful day outside. The dripping got worse. 30 minutes later there was a crashing sound in his bedroom, and when he got there, he found his entire ceiling had fallen in. The water had softened the sheet-rock to mush. He had a flooded attic. A flooded attic?

 

So he called Property Solutions. When we got there, our team crawled into the attic to see what happened. Was it a broken water line? Was there a reservoir somewhere? His neighbors saw our truck, and came over to ask for help because their attic was flooded too. How did all these people’s attics get flooded? We saw it.

You already know.

The “bomb cyclone” had such high winds, that it actually drove snow up into soffit vents all over Colorado Springs. When the snow began to melt, the piles of snow sitting on top of peoples insulation soaked it and seeped into the wood and drywall underneath, collapsing ceilings and running down walls. Now many-thousand cubic feet of insulation acted like a soaked sponge, dripping water into the houses.

So we hit the ground running. We had people and equipment in almost a dozen homes within hours. Pure teamwork in a pretty crazy situation. There were fans and insulation extractors everywhere, crews in attics for days trying to reduce damage. At first the insurance companies were baffled by the explanation, but by the end generally did right by the homeowners.

There is a story to be told though, about making sure your insurance company is willing to be who they say they are in the face of disaster but that’s for another time.

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