Now is the time to clear accumulated snow from roofs of buildings

A snowy roof in Tallinn (taken 2021).
A snowy roof in Tallinn (taken 2021). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The current cold snap, which has brought with it substantial snowfall across much of the country including in the capital, is set to be followed by a thaw through the weekend and into next week. While it might seem counter-intuitive, this means snow which has accumulated on sloping roofs and in other hazardous spots should be cleared now, and not once it starts to melt.

Las weekend saw the same volume of snow fall in Tallinn as had over the preceding two months, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Wednesday night, while sub-zero temperatures have meant the formation of icicles as well – all of which can present a potentially lethal hazard for pedestrians walking below.

Mihkel Nurm, who runs a business engaged in such work, told AK that: "Now is the best time to clear the snow, because it is still soft. It can be removed pretty quickly. Once it thaws out and then it gets cold again, you end up with a big pile of ice on the roof."

This snow must be cleared under city regulations, AK reported – if it is not, authorities can contact the owners (in the case of most apartment blocks, a housing association is responsible for the clearing and other upkeep of the building) and in some cases can even issue fines.

Apart from requiring somewhat of a head for heights, the requisite training and equipment are needed before undertaking the work.

"The most important thing is harnesses required for high work, while helmets are mandatory, the necessary security equipment is mandatory," Nurm told AK, adding that whistles or radios are required while working, tools must be secured with cord lest they fall, rubber mallets rather than sharp hammers should be used in the work etc.

A minimum of two people should be on the roof at the time the work is being conducted, with a third person on the street below overseeing things.

Aivar Toompere, the head of capital's municipal police (MuPo), said that roofs in the capital are always a headache in winter, with freezing rain and freeze-thaw action combining with heavy snow-fall all being challenges.

While so far no fines have been issued this winter, large icicles which had formed on the former North Tallinn district government building needed removal, a job which took some time

No one has been fined this year and so far a reminder has been enough.

The roof of the former North Tallinn district government building was uninsulated and it took some time to remove the large icicles, AK reported.

Private individuals can (and indeed should) remove icicles they can easily reach from a window, by for instance bashing them with a broom until they fall down into the street or yard below – after checking very carefully that the coast is clear of passers-by first, of course.

Tomorrow, Friday December 10, is set to be the last day of the current cold snap, with daytime average temperatures on Saturday suddenly jumping up to a positively muggy +2C, and even nighttime temperatures hovering close to freezing, where in recent days, values in the negative double figures had been the norm (see below, Friday to Monday).

Average temperatures for next few days. Source: ERR

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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