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Officials warn of roof collapses; storm could bring some areas 4 more inches

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Published on February 4, 2011 in The Boston Globe MetroDesk Blog

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

State officials renewed their warnings today about the danger of roof collapses, as weather forecasters said a storm on Saturday could drop more than four new inches of snow on some parts of the region.

“This is not a reason for panic, it’s a reason for care and diligence,” Governor Deval Patrick said at a midday news conference at a collapsed battery company building in Auburn. “This is a very tough time, a very tough set of circumstances. But people can do things to keep themselves, their families, and their co-workers safe.”

He said the warning signs of a collapse included doors sticking or opening on their own because the jambs have become out of line. Leaks, windows jamming, and cracking sounds are other signs, he said.

“Obviously, if anyone starts to hear this kind of cracking, get out of the building as quickly as possible,” he said.

Light snow is expected to start from mid-morning to noon on Saturday. It will switch over to rain in the Boston area and might switch back to a couple of hours of light snow early Sunday morning, said Rebecca Gould, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton.

A snowfall forecast map issued by the weather service showed some areas along the northern central part of the state receiving as much as 4.4 inches of snow. Boston is expected to receive only about 0.2 inches.

Tonight and Saturday night, temperatures are expected to plunge into the 20s, or lower, and stay below freezing at night through most of next week, the weather service said. Another storm could hit late next week, forecasters said.

Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said approximately 92 buildings had collapsed since last week, including 80 in the past three days.

He said people should keep an eye on their roofs and remove as much as snow and ice as possible before the storm even in areas where the precipitation is mainly rain. He said the snow would “act like a sponge,” placing an added strain on roofs. “In this regard, I think snow might be a little bit better,” he said.

The governor also said the state has been looking at the rules for a US Small Business Administration program that could offer financial assistance to those making repairs to damage caused by the recent series of punishing storms. Kurt Schwartz, acting director of MEMA, said the state was also looking into a Federal Emergency Management Agency program that would provide help for communities that have exhausted their snow and ice removal budgets.

Meanwhile, the MBTA continued this morning to face delays on the commuter rail, problems on a variety of subway lines, and buses making their way through icy, snow-choked streets.

Logan International Airport operated with only a handful of cancellations, said airport spokesman Phil Orlandella. “I don’t know what normal is,’’ he said. “But I guess we are as close to normal as possible.’’

State Police reported this morning that black ice on major highways in the southeastern corner of the state — Interstate 495 and Routes 3, 24, and 140 — caused numerous spinouts, but no serious crashes or injuries.

Boston officials said today they were continuing to remove snow from city streets and and planned to work through the weekend. The city has removed more than 62,000 tons of snow from the streets since last week, the mayor’s office said in a statement.

In Hopkinton, the roof of a horse barn partially collapsed while two horses were inside, fire officials said. Firefighters were called to the scene, 164 Fruit St., at 7:03 a.m.

When firefighters arrived, the horses were still on the first floor of the two-story barn, said Fire Chief Ken Clark.

“The roof was completely down to the first floor and there was some structural instability,” he said.

Clark said fire officials borrowed the homeowner’s snowblower to cut through the deep snow to the lower floor and free the animals.

“Luckily, one of the rescue guys has horses, so he was in his element,” Clark said. “He was very comfortable. … He was able to calm them, put bridles on them, and get them out.”

Georgetown public schools will be closed until Monday to perform snow removal following a partial collapse Thursday of one of the district’s elementary schools, officials said today.

Currently, contractors are working to remove snow from buildings in hopes of reopening all schools Monday. However the damage at Perley Elementary School still has to be assessed before reopening, Fire Chief Albert Beardsley said.

“We don’t know at this time whether we just need to keep the one wing closed or if the entire school needs to be closed,” he said.

The building inspector is making contact with a structural engineer to determine the safety of the structure and the best course of action, said Beardsley.

In Mansfield, students at Robinson Elementary School were evacuated around 8:30 a.m. due to a roof leak, according to a fire dispatcher.

“The fire department does not see any apparent problems, but is taking this action as a precaution for student safety,” the Mansfield Public Schools website stated.

Students were taken to the Jordan/Jackson School, Qualters Middle School and Mansfield High School.

A Centerville elementary school and a strip mall in Ashland were also evacuated, as were Walmart stores in Chelmsford, Worcester, North Attleboro, and Northampton.

An abandoned two-family house collapsed in Stoneham, a fire official said. No one was inside the home on Common Street, but the old wooden house was beyond repair, he said.



Written by jdunccc

February 4, 2011 at 12:00 am

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