A recent winter storm is toppling float homes on Lake Pend Oreille.
“They’re top heavy,” said Paul Celeri, office manager of the Scenic Bay Marina & Motel in Bayview, Idaho. “The problem is, is there’s not really a lot of building codes on the lake and so people think they can build these things how they want.”
Unlike house boats, float homes do not have motors and are more or less stationary, and they are popular around the Scenic Bay portion of the lake. However, many of the two-story float homes have a boat shed underneath, Celeri said, which makes them less stable as snow and ice pile up on top.
“A good amount of them started out as a standard boat shed and over the years, they would add on to them,” he said.
He said he’s been contacting homeowners in the bay and encouraging them to quickly remove the snow from their roofs. About three homes are tilting into the water, one seriously, he said.
“The one that is in the worst state is actually being held up by (its) neighbor,” he said.
Residents report at least one boat may have been crushed underneath one of the sinking houses.
But the homeowners are weathering the storm better than the actual homes. Their attitude?
“It happens every year,” Celeri said. “There’s not much we can do about it.”
The difference this year, he said, is many were caught off guard.
“I think what happened was because of the ‘wonderful’ weather we’ve been having, we were caught with our pants down,” he said. “It’s not a lot of snow, but it came on so fast and out of nowhere it’s something to catch up with now.”
However, he said, “I really think the worst of it’s over.”
Some residents aren’t so sure.
“If it rains into that snow and it freezes, we could have some real disastrous consequences,” said local blogger Herb Huseland, who witnessed the aftermath of one toppled home but does not live in a float home. “Freezing rain hitting snow is going to add a tremendous amount of weight.”