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El Niño Brings Wild Weather and Roofing Challenges

By Rhett Bowen February 24, 2016

Extreme_weather_roofing_challenges_1.jpgMild temperatures, once-in-a-hundred-year-level flooding and massive snowstorms have all been a part of the wild weather witnessed in recent months. These phenomena, though extreme, are not without explanation.

They’re a part of the natural weather pattern known as El Niño – a warming of Pacific Ocean waters around December. This periodic rise in sea surface temperatures causes above-average temperatures and wetter-than-average conditions in much of the U.S. and Canada.

Extreme weather often calls for extreme measures to prepare and take care of cities, people and homes, with roofs demanding special attention. El Niño has already created some roofing challenges and will continue to put pressure on the roofing industry as winter continues and the warming and wetting effects go into full swing.

California Dreamin’ (of Rain)

After a summer of severe drought, forest fires and water-use restrictions, California has finally received a significant amount of rain thanks to El Niño. When the rain does come, it comes in torrential  storms, producing more rain in one day than some areas received in an entire month.

This onset of rain has caused flooding and many other issues. Even before the El Niño rains hit in November and December, California roofing companies were overwhelmed with calls and orders to fix or replace roofs. The drought left roofs unattended and not replaced for years, but now it’s catching up to homeowners. Homeowners are wise to the fact that an aging roof and a deluge of water makes for a nasty combination.

Heavy rain causes shingles to loosen and be torn away. Heavy rain is also usually accompanied by strong winds, which can destroy even a good roof. All these components contribute to a perfect storm of roofing challenges. Just over the horizon lay physical deterioration, leaks, bacteria growth, dry rot and a host of other issues. 

It’s best to take care of leaks and vulnerabilities before a storm sends water pouring into your home, discomforting homeowners and exacerbated damage. 

Snowstorm Jonas, the First of Many?

While the major Eastern seaboard snowstorm Jonas wasn’t directly caused by El Niño, the abnormally strong jet stream created by the pesky weather pattern certainly fueled it. That jet stream also carries abnormal amounts of rain across the southern United States and provides extra energy to nor’easter storms. Jonas was just the first example of the latter.


Experts predict a severe winter, but are unsure if it will bring large ice and snow totals or just abundant freezing rain. Either way, home and building owners should be concerned about the dangers of these winter extremes on roofing. 

Ice causes ice dams where water seeps underneath shingles, wreaking havoc on roofing and internal building materials. Snow can pile up, placing added weight and stress to compound any existing roofing challenges (leaks, cracked shingles, general wear, etc.) and invite structural degradation. 

Here are four tips on how to handle the increase in calls and weather-related roofing challenges:

Meeting Roofing Challenges Head On

As roofers get more calls due to El Niño’s effects on buildings infrastructure, they’ll be thankful for the business, but not the frustrated and desperate customers. There are some things roofing companies can do to better handle the influx of calls and work.

  1. Be Proactive:

Marketing to homeowners before the rainy and winter months leads them to get the roofing attention they need before problems accumulate.

However, if customers fail to have their roofs tended to prior to high season, it may be helpful to provide them with some instructions to mitigate the need for immediate professional intervention and contain any damages until a professional arrives.

  1. Keep it Clear:

Before going onsite to give an estimate and survey the scope of a roofing job, it’s best to advise homeowners to clear their roofs of all debris. (Obviously this may not be realistic for all homeowners, so professional clearing is an option. Still there’s no reason why clearing should be linked to or wait for general assessment and repair work.)  

A clean roof and gutters also allow rain to flow over it as it’s supposed to, preventing a lot of rain-related damage.

  1. Assess the Trees:

One of the worst things that can happen to an already strained roof is having a tree collapse onto it. Urge existing and potential customers alike to have the trees surrounding their roofs assessed. In drought-stricken regions like California, trees dry out and are much more susceptible to high winds and heavy rain.

Cutting down these dead and dry trees eliminates a scenario in which they would destroy a roof and possibly a whole building.

  1. Be Patient:

When it feels like the calls are never going to stop, your schedule gets booked and customers get angry that they’re not being served. Be calm, request patience from their end, and assure them that you’ll fit them in as soon as possible. But if they really can’t wait, make sure they are always using licensed contractors. 

Rain, wind, snow, ice, warm and cold temperatures are no good in any extreme, but this year’s El Niño promises a particularly outrageous flux of weather. Roofers can prepare their businesses and customers for the worst with informed expectations and these best-practice procedures to meet and defeat roofing challenges.

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