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Snow, rain bring down roofs across the region

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Published on February 2, 2011 in The Boston Globe MetroDesk Blog

-Shared byline with Katherine Landergan and Travis Andersen

In a sprawling commercial building in Easton today, the workers started hearing “strange noises’’ so worrisome that someone pulled a fire alarm, and some 100 people went rushing outside into the chilly weather.

“That was a smart thing to do,’’ Easton Fire Captain David Beals said in a telephone interview. “That way, everybody evacuated.’’Just moments after firefighters and company officials accounted for all the workers, the roof in the warehouse section collapsed into the interior of the Eastman Street building. A short while later, the cinderblock walls of the 154,000-square-foot building collapsed.

“It was a bad scene. The building is a total loss,’’ said Beals, who added the structure housed two businesses, including a telemarketing firm,Triton, which employed some 150 people. “There are two businesses that are out of work right now.’’

The Easton collapse was one of the more dramatic of an estimated 20 or more structural failures across the state. No serious injuries have been reported.

“There is a rash of them out there,’’ Peter Judge, spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said this afternoon. “Literally as we speak, we are getting calls about them.”

He added, “The vast majority are the unoccupied, sort of warehouse-type structures. We are not losing houses or apartment buildings or things like that.’’

Structural failures were also reported in a Concord lumber yard, a Needham commercial building and a garage in Natick.

In Leominster, fire officials said the roof of a residential garage fell onto a car parked inside the garage on Second Street. Also, the roof of a greenhouse and the roof for an oil company’s garage could not withstand the weight of the snow and collapsed.

In Wrentham, the Wrentham Village Premium Outlets mall was evacuated and closed tas a precautionary measure, a spokesperson for the outlets said. Despite some reports, no roofs in the shops collapsed.

“There’s no damage to the roof or the center, this is a precautionary measure,” said spokeswoman Michele Rothstein. “We’re checking the structures and doing everything we need to do.”

In Holbrook, the roof of a storage facility at Boston Cedar and Millwork, a building supplier, collapsed under the weight of the snow, leaving a gaping hole.

Rick Reuss, the town’s emergency management director, said at the scene that the hole appeared to be about 40 feet in length.

“It looks like it’s going to be a long repair, if not a demolition,” he told company operations manager Jim Mulligan.

Mulligan said no one was in the building when the roof collapsed. “On a day like today, obviously building materials aren’t going to go out,” he said.

Asked about the treacherous weather conditions, Mulligan said, “It’s been a tough winter, we’ll go with that.”

He said that while the company has taken every precaution to prevent mishaps like today’s roof collapse, “These storms are historic.”

Reuss added that he expects similar scenes to play out during the day. “It’s going to be collapses (throughout) the area.”

In Northborough, a commercial construction facility collapsed at approximately 10 a.m., fire officials said. Construction workers saw the100-by-200-foot shed cave in at the corner of Allen Street and Court Street.

The roof of a hangar at Norwood Memorial Airport collapsed at about 10:40 a.m., fire officials said. At least three planes were visible this afternoon in the mangled building, two of them covered in snow and debris from the roof.

Workers were on scene assessing the damage. The hangar is operated by Swift Aviation Service Inc., officials said.

A commercial building at 230 Crescent Ave. in Chelsea had a partial roof collapse, fire officials said.

Collapses were also reported in Wilmington and in Springfield, where the canopy over the gas pumps at a gas station fell down, said Judge.

The National Weather Service fielded reports of a collapse this morning in Randolph, of an older garage, not attached to a house, on Woodland Parkway.

Beals, the Easton fire captain, said workers at a factory on Norfolk Avenue were also evacuated after they reported hearing sounds suggesting the building was structurally unsound. But, he said, the building was not in danger of collapsing.

Beals said he planned to alert town school officials to make sure they check the school building for structural integrity.

“Our concern is that this (Eastman Street) building may not be the last one,” he said. “It’s only a matter of time before the next one hits.”



Written by jdunccc

February 2, 2011 at 12:00 am

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