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Governor urges Mass. residents to keep an eye on snow-burdened roofs

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Published on February 3, 2011 in The Boston Globe MetroDesk Blog

-Shared byline with Katherine Landergan, John Ellement and Martin Finucane

The roofs of buildings around the region continued to collapse today, overburdened by this grueling winter’s seemingly endless onslaught of snow, rain, ice, and sleet. And the forecast offers little relief — the National Weather Service says another storm will hit on Saturday.

More than 70 buildings – mostly flat-roofed commercial structures – have seen their roofs collapse, partially or completely, or been evacuated due to safety concerns, Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said this afternoon.Luckily, while dozens of people were in potentially dangerous situations, no one has been seriously hurt, Judge said.

Judge said the number of collapses was “mindboggling.” So was the lack of injuries, he said.

Governor Deval Patrick urged homeowners, business owners, and public officials “to be extra vigilant for their own safety, and for the structural integrity of their homes and businesses.” He also directed state officials to work with the federal government to see if a physical or economic disaster could be declared.

Collapses were reported in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, Chelsea, Weymouth, and Worcester. In a close call in Reading, a man and his son were home but were uninjured when the roof collapsed. Concerns also rose that a number of schools might experience roof collapses. In Georgetown, a partial collapse at the Perley Elementary School forced closure of the school.

Judge said public safety officials hope the weakest buildings have now been pruned away, but he said they also fear that more trouble is in the offing when the next storm system hits.

“It’s not like we are going to have a nice melt over the next couple of days,’’ Judge said. “I would hope that anyone who owns or manages a big, flat-roof building has had someone up on the roof removing snow.’’

The weather service said this morning that some sun will break out today, that temperatures will remain in the 20s and that no major precipitation is expected, aside from some snow showers this morning. Temperatures are expected to plummet into the teens in Boston tonight and the single digits in the suburbs.

On Friday, temperatures will reach into the low 30s with sunny skies. But Saturday morning into midday, forecasters said, another storm, with snow and mixed precipitation, appears likely to arrive.

The snow is predicted to begin just before noon and continue through the evening. Some inland areas could see as much as six inches, said Neal Strauss, a meteorologist with the weather service. Strauss said the mostly wet snowfall will not cause the type of havoc on roadways that recent storms have, but that it will add to the pressure already mounting on roofs.

In Reading, a homeowner on Marla Lane called the fire department around 6 a.m. today about a crack in the wall, and the fire officials suggested calling a contractor.

The homeowner called back around 2 p.m. reporting significant damage, said Fire Captain Paul Guarino. Tiles were falling out and there was an obvious bulge in the second-floor wall. With firefighters on the scene, the structure collapsed, but the homeowner and his son were able to escape without injury.

In Jamaica Plain, a home being renovated collapsed under the weight of snow around 1:30 a.m. today.

Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald said the vacant 2 1/2-story wood-framed building at 20 Porter St. crumpled to the ground except for a front facade.

“The snow was definitely a factor,” said MacDonald. “The roof and sides caved in. It was all a pile of rubble.”

MacDonald said the occupied building on the right side was evacuated as a precaution and power was shut off to the building. The city’s Inspectional Services Department will examine the structure.

In Chelsea, an elderly woman was rushed from her home by emergency workers today after the roof of a neighboring commercial building collapsed, rattling the woman’s nerves and her kitchenware. No one was in the commercial building at the time.

In Worcester, public safety officials are investigating a roof collapse at a commercial building on James Street.

In Lincoln, town officials surveyed Donelan’s Market where part of the roof collapsed late Wednesday night. The store, located in the Lincoln Mall, was closed. The town’s building inspector was examining the property today to see if it is structurally sound so other businesses in the mall can reopen, officials said today.

In Weymouth, a partial roof collapse at one unit of a commercial condo building forced the evacuation of 20 people from eight units, but occupants of other units were allowed to return after the roof was cleared and the building was checked out.

According to the weather service, long-range forecasts suggest another storm will arrive early next week.

As of 6 a.m. Thursday, the weather service reports 70.5 inches of snow has fallen this season at Logan International Airport.



Written by jdunccc

February 3, 2011 at 12:00 am

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