JP Observer: How to really deal with winter’s roof and T troubles

Ice dam solutions

Fill women’s pantyhose with calcium chloride (ice melt) and place them on your roof so they overhang the gutters. Or do the same with men’s discarded socks.

You will need either a low roof and a good throwing arm or a tall ladder that you gradually move around the house. You may need to wield a roof rake or a hoe.

Go up on the roof and pound on the ice. Or hire people to do that or to steam the roof for a couple thousand dollars.

It will be cold and quite possibly windy and slippery. Be very careful.

Or, put more insulation on your attic floor because indoor warmth helps turn snow to ice. Try to prevent icicles and ice dams from forming and damaging your house by installing electric deicing cable in a zigzag pattern on the roof to turn on for each snowfall.

The ice should then melt and flow down the gutters, through the downspouts and away, experts say, unless…

These instructions for dealing with record cold and snowfall sound like a combination messy science project and costly winter sport slightly less dangerous than ski jumping. But what a great way to use all that old hosiery you’ve been holding onto! And what a conversation starter the dangling hose and lines of socks would be!

There is another easier, cheaper, safer way to keep ice dams from forming: After each snowstorm, walk around your building and shovel out the downspouts from openings to the ground. Make sure the gutters are cleaned each fall. Surprisingly few people here take these simple actions, obviously.

Some home improvement websites add in fine print that digging out downspouts is “important.” I remember going around our house with a shovel to free the spouts as a teenager in the Midwest in the 1960s. Do New Englanders not know about this? Or have most people just forgotten?

Years ago, I suggested this to friends in JP whose house was suffering terrible ice dam damage. They started freeing the spouts after every snow and have had no ice dams since.

The T

“Unacceptable.” That’s what Gov. Charlie Baker and others, in a frenzy of frustrated finger-pointing, repeatedly called the performance of the MBTA this month.

Rationally, the T’s functioning can only be compared to other transit systems that have 97-plus inches of snow (60-plus one month), weeks of freezing temperatures, miles of exposed rails, much equipment stored outdoors and, on top of that, suddenly acquire thousands of new riders.

The only U.S. urban areas that average close to this much snow per season—Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse—use buses. Buffalo also has two small rail lines, mostly underground. Syracuse buses often follow “snow routes” in winter.

“We cannot continue to do the same thing and expect a different result,” Baker said on Feb. 20 when he announced a panel of experts will make recommendations about the T. He’s right. Given the way our transit system is laid out now, we need to change our expectations of it and ourselves when winters are extreme.

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