By BRIAN WALKER
Hagadone News Network
BAYVIEW — The sound of alarms going off in the marinas at Bayview meant it was time for Mark Streater to go to work Tuesday.
It was the sound of tilting and sinking float homes on Lake Pend Oreille due to heavy snow loads.
Streater and others were called upon by float home owners to shovel snow from rooftops to prevent them from sinking farther or tipping over.
"I've gotten calls from people saying, 'Will you please save my house?" Streater said as he raked snow from the roofs and porch areas. "It surprises me that people don't pay better attention (to the weather conditions)."
Streater said water was reaching sewage pumps in some of the homes, triggering alarms.
"A half a dozen to a dozen are not doing too good," said Streater. "It's a good thing it stopped snowing because it's getting critical. Some have sunk 6 inches to a foot or lower and the siding on some is under water. The two-story ones are in the most trouble."
Streater said if snow gets considerably heavier on one side of the roof than the other, he has seen during previous winters where homes can tip completely over on their side.
He said one of the newer homes was built with heavier material without much detail to weight. It was tilted to where one side was about a foot and a half out of the water.
"It even has a system to help balance it, and it's still leaning," he said.
Streater was asked to shovel by some float home owners who live outside the area over the winter. Most, but not all, of the homes are uninhabited during the winter.
"Generally, if people live in them over the winter, they are on top of things," he said. "But others seem to forget in the winter that it snows a bunch and don't have their float homes checked on."
Gary Lee said a neighbor called him in a panic on Monday after he learned homes were tilting. Lee then enlisted his son, Raymond, to assist him with shoveling duty on Tuesday.
"You know when the homes start to tilt that it's time to start thinking about things," Lee said. "Some of the homes that haven't been heated have a foot of snow on them. A couple hundred bucks (to shovel) is a lot cheaper than losing your float house."
Lee said his response to help created a domino effect of homeowners asking for assistance.
One homeowner, who declined to be identified, said she could tell her home was tilting based on the way her doors are positioned. Another told The Press she had to fill containers under her house with air because it had sunk about 2 inches due to excessive weight from the snow.
Lee said with a cold snap predicted for the rest of this week, there's a good chance the snow is staying put for a couple days. He said that has escalated concerns from some homeowners.
With a portion of the marinas frozen, other property owners, including Vern Bier, are taking action.
Bier used a tool called the "Ice Eater" to melt the ice around his boat.
"If I don't do it, it could crush the hull and cause the boat to sink," Bier said. "I'm trying to prepare for the next cold spell."
Shoveling from the rooftops of float homes is far from an easy chore.
"One of the problems is that they are too close together so there's nowhere for the snow to go," Streater said, adding that snow landing on neighboring float homes can compound the problem.
When workers get on the metal rooftops they have to use a rope around them that's secured to a solid area for their safety.
"Stay tied up, trust your rope and don't work alone," Lee said.
But Streater isn't complaining about the labor.
"It's a job opportunity in the winter," he said. "It's work for when construction is slow this time of year."