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Posts Tagged ‘snow

State, communities to get federal aid for costs of Jan. storm

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Published on March 7, 2011 in The Boston Globe MetroDesk Blog

President Obama declared today that the swirling nor’easter that blanketed the state with snow on Jan. 11 and 12 was a major disaster. The declaration makes state and local governments eligible for reimbursement of 75 percent of their costs of battling the storm, officials said.

The aid will cover a range of spending, including equipment and manpower for snowplowing, salting, and sanding. The aid be available in Berkshire, Essex, Hampshire, Middlesex, Norfolk, and Suffolk counties. Only those counties are eligible because the snowfall met or exceeded their record snowfalls, said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Each community can choose a 48-hour period for which they will get reimbursed. Communities may shift that period earlier if they spent more money preparing for the storm, or they may shift it later if they spent more money cleaning up, Judge said. The Berkshire County window for reimbursement will be 72 hours because it exceeded its record snowfall by 16 inches – with 38 inches recorded, compared with the previous record of 22 inches.

“The important thing for communities is receiving this money back,” said Judge.

In addition, communities in all counties in the state can receive a 75 percent reimbursement for repair and recovery of damaged property, though Judge said these measures aren’t generally needed after snowstorms.

“In an event like this, it’s a very small piece of the pie,” he said.

MEMA officials will meet with local officials to explain the reimbursement process and go over what is eligible for compensation.

“To be honest, every couple of years we have this type of snow event reimbursement so this won’t be new ground for a lot of these communities,” said Judge.

The process will be overseen by James N. Russo, who has been named the federal coordinating officer for the recovery operations.

Judge said the announcement is good news, a sentiment echoed by Senator John Kerry earlier today.

“While most of the ice and snow have finally melted away, tons of people are still hurting from the damage left behind,” Senator Kerry said. “People missed work, homes lost power, and businesses had to close their doors. We’re grateful to President Obama for making this declaration and giving us the financial assistance that comes with it.”

Written by jdunccc

March 7, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Posted in MetroDesk Blog, The Boston Globe

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Boston has issued nearly 8,800 tickets in snow emergencies

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Published on February 8, 2011 in The Boston Globe MetroDesk Blog

The heavy snows that have fallen on the Boston area this winter have been a pain in the back for a lot of snow shovelers. For thousands of Boston drivers, they’ve also been a pain in the wallet.

The city has issued 8,769 tickets for violating snow emergency parking bans, the Boston Transportation Department said today. Each ticket is for $45, meaning that people owe $394,605 in fines.

Cars that are ticketed can be towed, but only 457 have been towed so far, amounting to about 5 percent of violations, according to the department. Those towed are charged another $90.

During snow emergencies, parking is banned on declared major arteries; cars can remain on smaller roads if they don’t pose any hazards.

“It’s not what we want to do. It’s strictly a public safety issue,” said Transportation Department spokeswoman Tracey Ganiatsos.

Vehicle owners can appeal their tickets through the Office of the Parking Clerk, Ganiatsos said. She also added that the city has a program where residents can park for free or at a discount at several private facilities during a snow emergency.

The height of the tickets came during the snowfall over Jan. 26 and 27, when 2,337 citations were issued and 67 cars were towed.

The totals for other storms are:

— Dec. 26-27, 1,351 tickets, 94 cars towed
— Jan. 11-12, 1,508 tickets, 129 towed
— Jan. 20-21, 1,921 tickets, 120 towed
— Feb. 1-2, 1,652 tickets, 47 towed


Written by jdunccc

February 8, 2011 at 12:00 am

Posted in MetroDesk Blog, The Boston Globe

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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

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

With snow piling up, officials keep a close eye on school roofs

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

At least one school suffered a partial roof collapse today, while others across the region were evacuated and inspected because of concerns that the weight of the snow and rain from a succession of winter storms might cause structural failures.

The roof of Perley Elementary School in Georgetown partially buckled from the weight of the snow, creating a hole about 30 feet by 30 feet in size, Fire Chief Albert Beardsley said.

The report of the collapse came in at about 11:45 a.m., he said. The failure affected a wing of about eight classrooms.

A full evacuation was ordered, and all children and staff were moved to the middle and high schools without any problems, said Beardsley.

In Norwell, the South Shore Charter School had to be evacuated because of the roof’s concerns about the roof’s condition, Fire Chief Andy Reardon said.

Firefighters responded a little before 10 a.m. and assisted with the evacuation of students to Cole Elementary School and Norwell High School, Reardon said, and the students were released to their parents a few hours later.

“You hear so often how things don’t work, but this thing, to me, worked like clockwork, almost like it was rehearsed,” he said. “I’m very pleased with the charter school and school district for being so cooperative.”

All 11 public schools in Peabody were closed today as a precautionary measure, Superintendent Milton Burnett said.

“The way the buildings are constructed, some places just drifted,” he said. “There were no structural compromises, it was completely precautionary.”

For the past week, facilities and maintenance crews have been working to clear close to a million square feet of roof space, he said.

Chelsea also took precautions, said Superintendent Thomas Kingston.

Officials checked each building to ensure their safety. Snow only needed to be removed from the roof of John E. Burke School, he said.

Hingham Middle School was also closed today due to concern over the roof’s safety. According to an announcement sent to Hingham school parents, several wooden beams that hold up the school’s roof cracked under the weight of 11 inches of snow, sending all 900 students into the cafeteria until they were dismissed.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the school would reopen on Friday.


Written by jdunccc

February 3, 2011 at 12:00 am

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

Snow keeps building services occupied

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Published on February 4, 2009 in The Huntington News

Snow, sludge and salt. This makes up the usual combination lining the sidewalks of Boston this season, creating hurdles for some, and larger obstacles for others.

And while some students may pray for canceled classes at the first sign of stormy weather, Northeastern Department of Building Services says it is making sure to maintain clear walkways to campus.

Overall, Building Services is responsible for clearing snow from 70 acres of property, including about 80 buildings. Additionally, the crew of about 40 workers clean local sidewalks that aren’t technically the school’s property like Forsyth Street, Columbus Avenue and St. Stephen Street.

“All of the sidewalks are owned by the city, but we still clean them,” Director of Building Services Mark Boutler said. “We are just trying to be a good neighbor to the community. We try to make it possible to help get people through and also to those with mobility issues.”

Organizations are beginning to strongly advocate proper snow removal, including WalkBoston, a non-profit organization that has worked since 1990 to improve walking conditions in Boston and other cities in Massachusetts, and in the past three years has begun to campaign for better snow clearance practices.

Wendy Landman, the program’s executive director, said there are a lot of problems with snow clearance in the city.

“For people with mobility problems [poor sidewalk clearance] will keep them from getting around,” she said. “I know people that are stuck in their homes for days at a time because they can’t get out of their homes onto sidewalks safely.”

About a year and a half ago, WalkBoston created seven basic recommendations as a guideline of what needs to happen to improve sidewalk conditions, like appointing a municipal figure to help with the reporting of uncleared sidewalks.

“We created [the recommendations] by doing a lot of research on conditions, how snow clearance is done and what seems to be best practices,” Landman said. “I think it’s going to take time, but we’ve provided the recommendations to different communities and we think there is a building awareness of an issue, but I wouldn’t say it isn’t put into place yet.”

Last year, Northeastern was cited by the Neighborhood Access Group (NAG), which advocates making sidewalks and crosswalks accessible for disabled people, for two violations on Hemenway Street.

However, Building Services has methods of its own, such as machines to clear the snow as well as shoveling by hand. Boutler said the key to snow removal is knowing when the snow will hit.

“The timing of storms is always different and we’re here as soon as it starts snowing and we’re here until hours after,” he said. “If we know there’s a storm, we try to get there before it starts.”

In addition to the 40 members of the snow team, there are contractors who operate the equipment.

“They work extremely hard and we are here sometimes for two days straight, and we’re away from our families for 24 or 48 hours at a time,” he said. “The crew takes a lot of pride that the job gets done well here.”

Additionally, about 25 students, mostly football players, help with snow removal as well, as part time work and work-study.

“I can tell you one thing, they get a good workout,” Boutler said.

These practices have proven effective this year. Northeastern has not received any violations, and students say they are pleased with conditions on campus.

“On campus is really nice; building services are really on top of cleaning everything,” said junior biology major Lyndsie Mannix.

However, this differs from her residence in Mission Hill, she said.

“It’s awful,” she said. “Some houses are really bad. I actually fell walking yesterday. My roommates and I fall all the time on the ice, especially going down the hill.”

In order to maintain safe conditions on campus this season, Boutler said they are in jeopardy of going over the snow budget designated by Northeastern, but there are ways to get more funding to maintain campus.

“It has to get done and it has to be funded,” Boutler said. “Just because money runs out we can’t stop clearing the snow.”

Written by jdunccc

February 4, 2009 at 12:00 am