By GAIL LOWE
WAKEFIELD — Old Colony Drive resident Bill Wladkowski was not about to take any chances after the area’s recent storms left more than a foot of snow on the roof of his single-family home in Montrose.
He climbed a ladder, shovel in hand, to clear his roof.
“I don’t want any leaks,” he said, his hand sweeping across the single-family home neighborhood in Montrose. “I would bet that most of the people on this street already have leaks.”
Smart man, Bill Wladkowski. He’s being proactive, heading off major problems before they become gargantuan.
At Exterior Home Services, a roofing company based in Wakefield and Lynnfield, the phones have been ringing off the hook,
Co-owner Carole Rocha said people are in tears over the wreckage in their homes caused by heavy snow accumulation and water leaking through windows and ceilings.
“We’re getting between 20 and 30 calls a day,” said Rocha. “People want snow removed from their roofs, and once our crews arrive neighbors are coming outside and asking the crews to get the snow off their roofs, too.”
Work crews consist of between two and three men who are assigned to each home. The work, said Rocha, has been exhausting and some workers have reported that their shoulders and backs are hurting. To make matters worse, Rocha’s husband Brian has come down with flu-like symptoms.
“But Brian is out there anyway, helping people as much as he can,” she said. “Our crews are working sun-up to sundown.
Rocha said that over the 10 years she and her husband have been in business, she has never seen a winter so brutal.
“People aren’t used to this. Massachusetts is not Vermont or Canada,” said Rocha. “Five years ago, most people had never heard of an ice dam. People are panicking.”
Rocha said she is now booking jobs all the way to next Wednesday.
Some homeowners in the region have reported waterfalls suddenly appearing in their living rooms, ostensibly caused by collapsing roofs while others report roofs that have already collapsed.
It’s a homeowner’s nightmare and it’s bound to get worse before it gets better,” Rocha said.
To support her claim, the weather forecast is calling for heavy rain mixed with sleet this coming Sunday. Then, temperatures are expected to drop below freezing, making for nightmarish conditions for commuters and pedestrians.
Carol Noseworthy, who handles claims at the Joseph A. Curley Insurance Agency on Albion Street, said she has spoken to a half dozen homeowners who are putting in claims for water damage caused by water getting inside their homes.
“More calls will be coming in,” she said, adding that if homeowners can remove snow and ice from their roofs and gutters safely, they should.
The winter woes of homeowners are not limited to roof and interior damage.
Jennifer Melanson at Mel & Sons Oil Co. of Wakefield said she is receiving more calls than normal.
“A lot of home heating oil delivery companies are just not showing up when called,” she said. “So people are calling us.”
Melanson said it’s “tough” getting delivery trucks out and in many cases oil truck drivers must shovel snow to get at the filler neck where the oil is dispensed into tanks.
“Some people are calling because they’re low on oil or they’re out of oil or their oil burners have stopped working,” said Melanson. “Other calls are about frozen pipes or maybe one heating zone isn’t working.”
Mel & Sons, said Melanson, serves Wakefield and surrounding communities but they also go out to outlying areas such as Topsfield and Ipswich and Lexington and Burlington.
Paul Cersosimo of Central Plumbing, Inc., on Albion Street said he and his brother John also have been busy answering calls about leaky windows, particularly on the second floor of homes.
“We’re having to say ‘no’ a lot to callers who need help,” said Cerosimo. “We’re on a pretty tight schedule. But if our regular customers need attention, we go right out.”
Cersosimo advises people to turn up their thermostats to keep their homes as warm as possible and not to worry about the “extra pennies” they will spend for heat.
“Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish,” he said. “Homeowners end up spending big bucks to fix broken equipment if they turn down the thermostat.”
He gave one other piece of advice: “Be confident that your equipment is in good working order.”
Wakefield Municipal Gas and Light Department General Manager Pete Dion said calls this winter season are in line with the number in previous years. “We’ve been pretty lucky,” he said. “It’s been like a typical winter with about three to five calls a day.”
What will happen when rain and sleet flood the region on Sunday is anyone’s guess but Carol Rocha said, “It will be bad news for people who already have issues.”