Should South Dakota homeowners be clearing all that snow from their rooftops?

"If you’re not sure the pipes are cleared, you will start to smell sewer gas and your heat could stop working,” Cumings said, noting he was on a roof recently and saw multiple vents buried in snow.

Mitchell's Elijah Maska snow blows his driveway clean during a blizzard on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2022. Massive snow drifts piled up on the roof of the home behind Maska.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — While the early January blizzard that brought 23 inches of snow to Mitchell has subsided, the leftover snow sitting atop many roofs remains.

And that can lead to major problems if the snow is covering roof pipes, according to the owner of a Mitchell roofing company.

Cory Cumings, owner of Mitchell Roofing, said most homes typically have sewer and furnace vents protruding through the roof. When heavy amounts of snow block the roof vents, Cumings said it causes sewer gas to remain inside the home and hamper the heating system.

“The biggest thing to worry about when so much snow piles up on roofs is making sure the sewer and furnace vents are able to breathe. If you’re not sure the pipes are cleared, you will start to smell sewer gas and your heat could stop working,” Cumings said, noting he was on a roof a few days ago and saw multiple vents buried in snow.

Sewer pipes play a vital function for homes. They remove sewage gas from houses and regulate the air pressure in the pipes.


Furnace vents also serve a critical role for homes that utilize natural gas to heat the house. Furnaces utilize toxic natural gas to provide heat inside of a home. The toxic natural gas used to create heat is captured and released through a vent, which Cumings said is typically placed on top of roofs.

While furnace vents atop some roofs range in size from over a foot to 2 feet, Cumings said there are a fair amount of homes with 1.5-foot vents protruding from the roof. The 23 inches of snow that came down on Jan. 2-3 created drifts well over a foot on many rooftops, which put the residents at risk of dealing with blocked vents.

“The trailer houses furnace vents are usually a foot and a half long on the roof. And they are flat. Trailer owners really need to keep a close eye on their vents when we get that type of snow,” Cumings said.

Clearing a snow-packed roof isn’t easy in the middle of winter, especially for elderly and frail-bodied homeowners. Considering Cumings has shingled a wide array of rooftops, he strongly recommends against taking the risk of climbing on top of roofs to move snow with a shovel.

“If you don’t have the right equipment, you can easily slip on a slick little patch of snow while you’re up there and fall straight to the ground,” he said.

Mitchell Roofing offers a roof snow removal service that entails crews using long roof rakes to clear snow.

Although the warmer temperatures have been melting the snow, Cumings said waiting for Mother Nature to melt the snow atop roofs can lead to major issues if the roof isn’t structurally sound.

“If you just wait it out, you can get ice to dam up that might penetrate and leak when it does melt,” he said. “Roofs with ice shield protection are the way to go in that case.”

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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