Lessons from the rooftop

Tonight after dinner I went to help Aaron Gouge finish up part of a roofing job he’s doing. He realized that it was supposed to rain tonight, and he wanted to get at least one half of the roof done and tarped so the rain didn’t damage the house he was working on. For about the first hour and 15, everything went fine. We worked under the light of our headlamps; I fed him shingles, he nailed them down, and we listened to oldies (which apparently means 60s and 70s now) and talked. Just as he was getting to the last few shingles, we saw our first flash of lightning, and began our very much audible prayers for the rain to hold off long enough for us to finish. The storm continued to roll in, lightning flashing every now and then, and we finished the shingles and moved right to putting down the tarps. As we began laying them down, it started to rain, and we ran out of tarps with about 18′ of roof left to cover still. Crap.

So we quickly picked up and headed to the townhouse, where I knew there was an extra tarp in the closet that was long enough. During the short drive, the storm quickly turned from a rainstorm to a fairly violent thunderstorm, and by the time we had the tarp back at the site, it was pelting huge fatty raindrops and lightning was flashing about every three seconds or so. Aaron and I have always wanted to climb up onto a roof in the middle of a severe thunderstorm, and that’s exactly what we did. We climbed up, layed down the last tarp, and went about dropping bundles of shingles to secure it to the roof. All I remember was a lot of lightning, a lot of running on a wet roof (not really intelligent), and a lot of very loud prayers for mercy as we quickly dropped the last bundles and ran back across to our perfectly conductive aluminum ladder and scurried down to the safety of Aaron’s car. We were drenched from head to foot, full of adrenaline, and somewhat amused at what we had just done.

So, we learned a few things tonight. The first one is an easy one. Don’t do roofing projects during severe thunderstorms. Simple enough, right? Secondly, if you must do a roofing project during a thunderstorm, make sure you have enough tarp to cover the entire roof. And thirdly, always make sure someone is holding on to the tarp during a thunderstorm. If no one holds on to it, chances are it will blow away.

If you need more lessons about the perils of rooftopping during thunderstorms, let me know and I will be more than happy to sit and chat with you about it sometime.