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Surviving Southern Snowstorms: A Recovery Guide

In the aftermath of winter storms, what can you do to protect your home from more damage? Learn how to recover safely and avoid flooding from snowmelt.

The South isn’t immune to severe winter weather. This guide aims to help you understand and prepare for winter-related risks like frozen pipes, snowmelt, and flooding, ensuring the safety and integrity of your home.

As weather patterns continue to evolve, homes across southern states such as Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia can be significantly impacted by winter storms. These conditions can lead to unexpected challenges like ice damage, frozen pipes, and increased flood risks due to snowmelt.

While immediate recovery from a winter storm involves restoring power and clearing roads, there are additional steps homeowners must undertake to protect their properties. This guide provides comprehensive advice on effectively mitigating the risks of frozen pipes, flooding from snowmelt, and other winter storm-related hazards.

The information provided in this guide will allow you to effectively prepare for, and recover from, winter weather events, regardless of when or where they strike. Your preparedness can significantly limit the potential damage caused by these weather extremes.

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What to Look For After a Winter Storm

The cold temperatures bring different types of water threats to your home. Even if you’re used to protecting your home from heavy rains or hurricanes, cold weather water issues are a different challenge. 

Watch for these three water issues during the aftermath of this winter storm:

1. Frozen Pipes

The cold temperatures caused many water pipes to freeze during this winter storm. This can lead to burst pipes where thousands of gallons of water flow into your home. The issue is prevalent during a winter storm in the South because many Southern homes are not insulated enough to withstand the type of cold temperatures that occur.

After a cold night, one Nashville resident said, “As soon as I got out of the bed, my foot touched the floor, and it was just soaking wet.” 

If your pipes burst, shut off the home’s main water supply to stop the flow of water into your home. If your water pipes are frozen but haven’t burst, slowly thaw out the pipes with a space heater. Keep the faucets open to avoid any pressure buildup until the blockage melts.

2. Snowmelt

Melting snow may drain differently than a typical storm. Because the ground is frozen, the melting snow can cause icy patches, and snowmelt could even start flowing back toward your home foundation. This can lead to flooding in your basement, crawl space, or other areas of your home. Plus, if water pools in the soil around your foundation, the freeze-thaw cycle can crack concrete walls, leading to more flooding issues and a failing structure.

Even though your home may be in a warm southern state, it’s important to still prepare for snowmelt runoff. This can help you avoid a situation where thawing snow accumulation leads to home damage. 

3. Flooding

After a winter snowstorm, flood risks come from several different sources. There are community-level threats including water main breaks, poor drainage, and frozen fire hydrants. Your home could also be at risk from ice dams on your roof, clogged gutters, and plumbing problems. 

If your home does have a flood, it’s important to safely remove the water as quickly as possible. The longer the water sits, the more likely you’ll have issues with mold, and you’ll see more damage to drywall. 

Preparing Your Home for New Weather Extremes

As weather patterns continue to change, there are some key steps you can take to help fortify your home against the changing threats. Many of these repairs also address winter storm issues while protecting you from summertime threats of hurricanes, heavy rains, and heat waves. 

Improving home insulation can help you protect your pipes from freezing in the winter months and can help keep your home cool in the summer months. To see the biggest impact, address drafts along your foundation sill plate and in your attic. Adding additional insulation to your water pipes and water heater can also protect you from frozen pipes while helping you save on energy costs. 

Adding a sump pump can help your home automatically fend off any flooding. If water is detected, the appliance will be triggered to start pumping water out of your home, protecting you from water damage in both a winter snowstorm and a summer downpour. The battery backup keeps you protected even if the power is out.

Installing basement waterproofing or crawl space encapsulation helps protect your home from the underground buildup of water. This hydrostatic pressure exerts an ongoing force on your foundation, and without effective water management, you could be left dealing with an unexpected flood. Preventive measures become a more critical part of your home as the weather becomes more unpredictable. According to FEMA, just one inch of water in your home can cause $25,000 in damage. 

How to Recover from a Winter Storm

After a winter storm, homes throughout Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia may face plumbing issues, flooding, and dangerous safety concerns. These tips can help you safely recover and prevent further damage to your home. 

  1. Frozen Pipes: Stop any leaks as quickly as possible by turning off the main water supply to the house. If water isn’t coming out of the faucet, leave the tap open to avoid a pressure buildup. Slowly melt any ice blockages by using a space heater, and call a plumber if necessary. 
  2. Electricity: If your electrical system has been exposed to water, have an electrician inspect it before use. Remember that you shouldn’t enter a flooded home because of the risk of electrical shock. An electrician needs to completely disconnect the home to avoid issues where a live current could be electrifying floodwaters. 
  3. Water Damage: When it’s safe to do so, quickly remove water from a flooded basement or crawl space. By acting fast, you may be able to avoid additional structural damage and mold growth. Sanitize surfaces that have been exposed to flood waters by using a solution of bleach and water. 
  4. Snowmelt: Avoid having a flooded basement or crawl space by making sure water is draining away from your foundation. You can reinforce your home against water with basement waterproofing or crawl space encapsulation, and having a sump pump can give you added peace of mind. 
  5. Heat: If you lost power, you may need to restart your furnace after the electricity is back on. If you’ve had a flood, don’t attempt to fix any equipment that’s been exposed to water. Call a professional to make sure it’s safe. 
  6. Sewer: Cold weather is more likely to cause backups because drains will freeze. Be cautious with your plumbing system, avoid pouring oils down the drain, and call a plumber if needed. 
  7. Drinking Water and Food: Refrigerated foods can be unsafe to consume after long power outages. Follow local advisories on boiling drinking water.
  8. Safety: Trees may have been damaged by ice, so watch for limbs that could damage your roof or wires. Be cautious about carbon monoxide risks, and don’t use a generator indoors. 
  9. Insurance: Your insurance policies may cover water damage. Burst pipes are generally covered by homeowner’s insurance, and flood insurance covers damage from external water sources like snowmelt. 

Need help with basement waterproofing, crawl space encapsulation, sump pumps, or foundation repair? Get a free inspection from your local experts at AFS.

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