State Urges Roof Clearing After Dozens of Collapses
A crane lifts snow one bucket at a time from atop Big Y in North Adams.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency says more than 92 structures (as of Monday, Feb. 7, it is 149) across the state have been reported as damaged by heavy snow, including six on Friday. Luckily, the Berkshires appear to have avoided the types of collapses that are plaguing the east end of the state and the Pioneer Valley.
Calls to Williamstown and North Adams yesterday afternoon came up with zip; Pittsfield and Adams likewise said today they've had no reports.
But that doesn't mean people aren't taking precautions. D.J. Wooliver & Sons, a roofing contractor in Lanesborough, has a waiting list of homeowners and businesses trying to rid their roofs of nearly 2 feet of snow.
"We're probably a couple weeks out right now," said office manager Cara Gaviorno of the orders in for snow removal. "We're pecking away at it and we're doing our best ... we're probably half way through."
On Friday morning, a Wooliver crew was working with a crane from Wahconah Welding of Pittsfield to haul loads of snow off the roof of the Big Y building, which also houses CVS, Advance Auto Parts and a Dollar Store.
While the North Adams store was open, the Springfield-based grocery chain reported on its Facebook page that it closed a few stores to evaluate their roofs. "All is good and all of our stores are back to operating as normal, sorry for the inconvenience," the site posted.
The Pioneer Valley was particularly hard hit, with a number of reports of collapses and structural damage. In addition to Big Y, Walmart closed stores in Northampton and Westfield, among others, to determine their safety.
Clearing roofs should also be done with extreme care. A Newfane, Vt., man spent two hours buried in snow Friday afternoon when the snow atop his garage fell on him as he was trying to clear it with a roof rake. Vermont state police said a neighbor heard his cries and called police. He was found buried up to his shoulders in 5 or 6 feet of snow.
The stress on roofs around the region is likely to increase with another 3 inches expected Saturday, followed by sleet and freezing rain — and more snow to follow. The snow and ice buildup can create water problems once it starts melting.
"We even have people calling who don't have a problem now, but want to know 'can we can get on the list?'" said Gaviorno.
Update: On Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011, an abandoned building in Great Barrington collapsed because of snow.
Original posting Feb. 4, 2011, at 12:33 a.m.
Snow is piling up on buildings and homes across the state.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — State officials are urging residents to clean off their roofs after more than 80 structures throughout the state were damaged by the heavy snow that fell over Tuesday and Wednesday.
Buildings ranging from barns to schools to apartments to parking garages have suffered structural damage because of the unrelenting snow. One of the most dramatic — the collapse of Triton Technologies in Easton — was caught on video by a crew from New England News Channel. Most of the damage is occurring in the east end of the state but nearby eastern New York has also seen a number of buildings collapse.
About a half-dozen structural issues were reported in Western Mass. but not so much in North Berkshire.
"I have not heard of any concerns — up to this point," said North Adams Building Inspector William Meranti on Thursday afternoon. He added, however, that smaller structures like sheds or carports, or "things in people's back yards" may have come down but not been reported yet.
Michael Card, in Williamstown's inspection services, said he was not aware of any issues in his town.
But with another 2 to 6 inches forecast for Saturday, Gov. Deval Patrick sent a missive urging property owners to be "extra vigilant" for their and their neighbors' safety.
"Following several days of snow and freezing rain, the dangers of roof collapse are real," said Gov. Deval Patrick in a statement. "If you suspect that there are any abnormalities whatsoever in a building that you occupy, you should evacuate immediately and call 911."
The state Emergency Management Agency recommends removing snow immediately from rooftops; while pitched roofs are less likely than flat roofs to collapse they are not immune to damage. Removing snow can be dangerous and using a professional service is recommended. Tips and recommendations can be found here.
Flat and low-pitched roofs, most often found on industrial buildings, are at the greatest risk of buckling under heavy snow and ice accumulations, according to MEMA.
"Those buildings are very susceptible [to collapse}," said Card. If steel shell buildings, or pre-engineered buildings, are engineered to the minimum standard for roof loads ... "If you get a little bit over, they collapse."
The 150,000 square-foot Triton building, for example, appeared to be a pre-engineered shell with a brick facade. About 100 employees fled the structure minutes before the roof fell in.
"Wood frame buildings have some redundancy," said Card. "And wood and masonry will telegraph that they're having structural problems."
He said he watched the old masonry Phototech building on Cole Avenue slowly buckle long before it finally collapsed.
The state fire marshal also recommends that homeowners take extra precautions to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide issues in their households, and should clear snow from vents.
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