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This is the first time I have seen this happen in my 6+ years of owning my home. It is an older home (45+ years), but has gable vents on both ends (facing east and west). It has always vented well in winter as I've never had too much issues with ice dams.

Last year I re-roofed and also put on soffet/fascia. Since it vented well enough, we did not put a ridge vent on.

My bathroom fan vents up through the attic, but comes out through the wall a little ways underneath the west gable vent.

Recently (the last week and half) we had single digit and even below zero weather. The bathroom fan vent seems to work fine with no issue, but with the cold weather (plus some blowing snow a couple times the last few nights) I now have both gable vents clogged up.

What gives? My immediate question is to find out how in the world do I clean these out? Second, how do I prevent this from happening another time around?

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Do you have interior attic access (reasonably) or not? Pictures would help (I'm having a hard time envisioning a full-on clog of the gable vent types I'm familiar with, so I'd love to see what you're up against, in order to have a hope of giving you any useful ideas.) – Ecnerwal Dec 17 '13 at 2:54
I do. And the more I think of it, the more I may have to climb up there (although I don't have a ladder to get to my attic). My other thought was to duct tape a broom to a roof rake to see if I could knock the snow out from the outside. – Chris Aldrich Dec 17 '13 at 3:12
Well, I was able to take my roof rake and tap the gable vents and that at least knocked enough snow out of them to allow air passage. Next question as mentioned above...how to prevent this again. – Chris Aldrich Dec 17 '13 at 13:53
You mentioned soffet/fascia. Did you install soffit vents, or simply enclose the soffit? In other words, is there a way for air to enter the attic through the soffit that wasn't there before, or was there previously a way for air to enter the attic that has been closed off? – Tester101 Dec 18 '13 at 11:01
To be honest with you, I couldn't tell you. Somebody else did it for me. I know we previously had only wood trim around the house we took off. And I don't remember seeing venting from the roof overhangs. So I'm going to guess the only venting is through the gable vents? – Chris Aldrich Dec 18 '13 at 13:58

I have to wonder if the bathroom vent is really "fine" or if it's failed in some manner so that it vents out of the bathroom, into the attic (rather than out of the bathroom, through the attic and out of the wall) - that would certainly add a lot of water vapor to the attic...which would be one way to clog up the vents.

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