Warmer weather brings water woes to roofs, basements

Mar 12, 2014

As featured in the La Crosse Tribune, March 10, 2014

Melting snow found its way into basements, roofs, storm sewers and yards this week.

When the temperature hit 50 degrees Monday, the phones started ringing at hardware stores and roofing contractors.

Everything's melting, and it has nowhere to go, said Dave O'Mara, manager of Ace Hardware of La Crosse, which saw a run on sump pumps and hoses as people scrambled to move that water someplace where it would do less damage.

The town of Onalaska even resorted to blowing up a creek.

At Ledegar Roofing, president Dan Koonce said the mini-thaw brought a sudden halt to winter's lull.

"We were like the Maytag salesman all winter long," Koonce said. "Yesterday the phone just went crazy."

Koonce's crews were still busy Tuesday addressing ice dams, clogged drains and leaky roofs installed by storm chasers after the 2011 hail storm and tornado.

"We're swamped," said Tony Maier, head of the service department. "From zero to hero."

Despite the deep snow cover, the chance of spring flooding remains only slightly above normal for La Crosse and surrounding areas, according to the National Weather Service. But with frost at record depth and rivers still covered in ice, there's an increased risk of localized flash flooding and ice jams on creeks and rivers.

So far, the only noticeable rise has been along the Kickapoo River between Ontario and Readstown, said Mike Welvaert, hydrologist for the National Weather Service.

Though the river only rose about a foot, that could be enough to break up the ice, Welvaert said. "Once we start braking that ice up we could be looking at ice jam issues."

Any water that made it off roofs was having trouble finding its way into storm sewers iced over from recent storms and in some cases frozen solid.

Once the grates were cleared, city workers used a high-pressure flusher with a special nozzle to cut through ice jamming the catch basins.

Crews cleared basins at South and West avenues, Ward and 26th and were working on the North Side Tuesday, said Steve Asp, assistant superintendent of the sewer department.

Though some city residents were out chipping ice from the grates, Asp said the city discourages people from working in the street where they could be hit.

"All we can ask is for them to be patient," he said. "We're working as fast as we can to get things open."

Anyone without an ice chipper is probably out of luck. O'Mara said Ace sold out of most of its supply after the Feb. 20 storm. Meanwhile, O'Mara said he's selling pumps " which start at about $50 and go up to $150" as fast as he can stock them.

"I'll probably need to get one myself," O'Mara said, noting that he resorted to using his four wheeler to "plow" standing water away from his house.

"It worked," he said.

"We were like the Maytag salesman all winter long. Yesterday the phone just went crazy."
Dan Koonce, president, Ledegar Roofing

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