The ‘La Niña’ pattern may create colder, wetter conditions in the Northern U.S. this year, according to predictions by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).i For the third year, the NOAA anticipates that colder than normal temperatures could extend from Montana to Western Michigan, with increased precipitation likely around the northern Rocky Mountains and the Great Lakes.ii Scientists believe there is greater than 50% chance the La Niña pattern will remain through April 2018.iii 

With freezing temperatures, snow, and winter storms on the horizon, homeowners may want to take special precautions to protect their families and their homes. By taking action early, before a big blizzard strikes, you can help reduce the occurrence of winter risks, from frozen pipes to water damage to roof collapse. These tips from our Private Client Group advisors can help you avoid common winter hazards and stay safer this season. 

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Before the Temperature Drops

  • Have your furnaces serviced and your chimneys inspected and cleaned. 
  • Check your home’s perimeter and seal any air leaks. Add insulation in your attic—most homes need at least 12-15 inches. Make sure the insulation does not touch any lighting that is not approved for insulation contact. 
  • Insulate pipes that go through colder areas such as exterior walls, garage ceilings, and unheated attics.
  • Shut off the water to any exterior hoses. Detach any garden hoses and empty the hose bibs.
  • Find your water main’s shutoff valve; keep the path to it clear in case you need to stop a frozen pipe leak or other water issue.
  • If you’re planning to be away from home, set your heat to at least 60 degrees so that cold spots do not become too cold. Open your sink cabinet doors to allow heat in. You can also let your faucets drip slightly to help prevent frozen pipes. 

Before the Snow Builds Up

  • Install attic insulation to help keep your roof cold. This helps prevent snow on the roof from melting and turning into ice dams. Ice dams are ledges of ice that build up at the edges of your roof and prevent water from draining off the sides. This can cause water damage to walls, ceilings, and insulation. If you are replacing your roof, consider adding an ice shield underlay.
  • To help prevent interior water damage and roof collapse, identify a local roofer who can clear snow from roofs and remove ice dams—not all roofers do this. Remember: as ice dams are caused by variation in temperatures across the roof’s surface, both sloped roofs and flat roofs can be vulnerable. If your home has skylights, a complicated roof design, or heating ducts in the attic, there may be an increased risk of ice dam formation.iv
  • If you live in an area with high snowfall, make sure no exhaust vents become buried by snow.

Before a Winter Storm Strikes

  • Get your backup generator serviced. If your generator runs on gasoline, diesel, or propane, make sure you have adequate fuel supplies  on hand. If your generator runs on natural gas, be aware that severe weather events can disrupt the flow of gas to your home. Even if your generator is portable, do not run it indoors. Do not store fuel in the generator. 
  • Be sure you’ve got your emergency supplies on hand. You may need flashlights, batteries, and chargers you can use in the car to recharge your devices. 
  • If a power outage occurs, and you have to relocate, consider shutting off the water to the house and draining the water lines; take the actions in tip #6 before leaving your home.

For more tips to help you protect your home and stay safer this winter, see our Private Client Group’s advice for homeowners here.


The content contained herein is intended for general informational purposes only. Companies and individuals should not solely rely on the information or suggestions provided in this article for the prevention or mitigation of the risks discussed herein.

i "La Nina moves in for the winter.” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, 9 Nov., 2017. Accessed 14 Nov., 2017.

ii "U.S. Winter Outlook predicts warmer, drier South and cooler, wetter North.” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, 20 Oct., 2016. Accessed 10 Jan., 2017.

iii "La Nina moves in for the winter.” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, 9 Nov., 2017. Accessed 14 Nov., 2017.

iv Larson, Timothy, et al. “Ice dams.” University of Michigan Extension, 2017. Accessed 19 Jan., 2017.