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Posts Tagged ‘weather

For students in at least two towns, roof problems mean a day off

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

It hasn’t snowed for several days. But students in Methuen and Georgetown are still getting “snow days” because of concerns that the roofs of their school buildings might be unsafe.

Methuen officials said they were closing both today and Tuesday so workers could clear snow from the roofs.

“It was the correct thing to do to relieve some of the pressure on those roofs,” said Methuen Mayor William Manzi, who met with school officials Friday to determine a course of action.

The meeting followed a recommendation Thursday from an architectural firm, a school department statement said. An outside contractor is performing the snow removal, and school will be reopened Wednesday.

“In order to get the work done in the safest possible manner, we cannot have children in the vicinity,” Superintendent Judith Scannell said in the statement.

The Georgetown public schools were closed again today after there was a partial collapse at Perley Elementary School last Thursday, said Fire Chief Albert Beardsley.

“In speaking with the building inspector, they still want a state engineer to come in and evaluate the building before we can start the process of reopening” the school, he said.

Today there is a crane removing snow from the school’s roof and dumping it on the ballfield, he said. The rest of the district’s schools are just about done with the snow removal.



Written by jdunccc

February 7, 2011 at 12:00 am

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

Shoveling sparks dispute; one arrested

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Published on February 3, 2011 in The Boston Globe, Page B3

While this week’s storm was followed last night by a deep freeze, tempers are starting to heat up from the seemingly endless winter.

On Tuesday, two people shoveling on Commonwealth Avenue in the Back Bay began arguing over throwing the snow, leading to the arrest of one of the men, according to Boston police.

William Plaza, 38, of Hyde Park, was arrested and charged with assault by means of a dangerous weapon after a verbal argument broke out while both parties removed the snow. Police say Plaza threatened the other shoveler with knives. No one was physically injured, police said.

The person who was threatened, who was identified only as “the victim” in a police report, was removing snow from 175 Commonwealth Ave., while Plaza was shoveling at 173. Plaza threw snow onto the victim’s side, and after several occasions the victim reacted, beginning the verbal dispute, police said.

When the arguing ended, the victim resumed shoveling and Plaza went inside 173 Commonwealth. Soon after, police said, Plaza returned, brandishing two knives to confront the victim.

Plaza then stated, “It’s four on one, you guys throw the first punch and someone’s going to get stabbed,” police said.

Police said they could not explain what the phrase “four on one” might have meant.

At that time, another person called the police, causing Plaza to return inside 173 Commonwealth.

When officers responded around 6:40 p.m., the victim was behind the building and Plaza was in his car. He was then arrested, according to police.

Written by jdunccc

February 3, 2011 at 12:00 am

Posted in The Boston Globe

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Weather threatens students’ vacations

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Published on January 28, 2011 in The Boston Globe, Page B4

-Shared byline with Matt Rocheleau

Two more snow days could require Boston public schools to cut into student vacation time to make up for lost instruction time.

Extending the year into July, however, is not an option because the city’s contract with the teachers union does not allow it, said Matthew Wilder, a School Department spokesman.

Yesterday marked the fourth snow-related school cancellation in the past two weeks. Superintendent Carol R. Johnson said in a statement that “considering it is only January, we may have to begin looking at days already reserved as school vacation days later in the school year, to make up these missed days.”

All public schools in Massachusetts are required to hold 180 days of classes each academic year. School districts account for cancellations by using a 185-day schedule, leaving a five-day cushion at the end of the year.

With no snow days, Hub students would have been dismissed for the summer on June 21. But with yesterday’s cancellation, they will not be able to belt out Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” until June 27, a Monday.

One more cancellation would push the academic year to June 28. If Boston has a sixth cancellation, the city might target vacation time before July 1 for make-ups.

“If we have a couple more, we’re going to have to look at other ways to make these up,” said Wilder. “At this stage, I think everything is on the table.”

State Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester is not granting waivers to the state’s 180-day requirement at this point in the school year, Education Department spokesman JC Considine said yesterday.

“There is still time for districts that have had to close for multiple days to adjust their calendars to ensure that our students do not lose out on valuable learning time,” Considine said.

He said state law does not prohibit districts from extending the year beyond June 30, although collective-bargaining agreements or local ordinances can prevent districts, like Boston, from pushing the academic year into July.”

Before yesterday, Boston schools shut down because of snow on Jan. 12, 13, and 21.

“We are well aware that closing school is not optimal for our families and our students,” Johnson said in announcing the latest cancellation.

“However, the safety of our students,” she said, “must be our first priority at all times.”

Written by jdunccc

January 28, 2011 at 12:00 am

Posted in The Boston Globe

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As more snow falls, homeowners are urged to watch their roofs

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Published on January 26, 2011 in The Boston Globe MetroDesk Blog

As Massachusetts residents de-ice their driveways and prepare their cars with antifreeze, there’s another precaution some are starting to take after this season’s heavy snow – clearing their roofs of built-up snow.

Though no serious incidents of collapsed roofs or extensive damage have yet been reported to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, the increasing snowfall this winter is raising concern, said MEMA spokesman Peter Judge.

More residents have been taking proactive approaches to snow buildup on their roofs this season, said Bill Connell, owner of Connell Roofing in Needham. His company already has jobs lined up to clear snow after tonight’s storm.

“Last year was pretty bad, and there’s a lot more snow a lot earlier in the season out here,” he said.

Connell doesn’t recommend residents try to clear their own roofs, as this can cause more harm than good when not done properly. He said roofs in good condition can handle these conditions.

“If you haven’t had a problem, it’s better off you leave it alone,” he said. “A house is made to hold the weight, but a house that’s been let go is the one that’s going to have problems.”

However, the MEMA website does have an article with suggestions for residents to clear their own roofs, and Judge suggests weight be removed from flat roofs. MEMA has made sure local emergency agencies also have the information posted on their website, and hopes the information will keep homes safe through this next storm.

“That’s sort of what we do here – prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” he said.

Written by jdunccc

January 26, 2011 at 12:00 am

Mass. in deep freeze, but temps expected to moderate

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Published on January 24, 2011 in The Boston Globe MetroDesk Blog

-Shared byline with Martin Finucane and David Filipov

Here’s a job you don’t want on a day like this. In Athol, where the temperature dropped to 22 below zero overnight, veteran letter carrier John Drozdowski said the weather would not stay him from his appointed rounds.

“Cold is bad, but nor’easters are worse,” he said with a smile as he filled up his car at a Main Street gas station, noting that the forecast for the next two days calls for more snow.

Massachusetts is in the deep freeze this morning, but relief — at least in terms of temperatures — is on the way, with a warmup expected Tuesday that could boost temperatures by 20 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

The thermometer by midafternoon at Logan International Airport crawled up to 13 degrees by midafternoon, up from the 2 below zero recorded overnight. At the Blue Hills Observatory in Milton, the mercury fell to 7 below overnight, the lowest reading in six yearsInterior sections of the state saw even colder temperatures. Weather service instruments recorded temperatures of 20 below in Springfield, 22 below in Orange, which adjoins Athol, and 11 below in Westfield.

Officials warned people to take precautions, such as wearing plenty of layers and limiting their time outside.

Frustrations built this morning due to delays on the MBTA. Delays were reported on subway, commuter rail, and bus lines. T General Richard Davey apologized for the delays and pledged to try to prevent a replay Tuesday morning.

Orange Deputy Fire Chief Paul Sheridan said in a telephone interview, “I personally couldn’t get two cars to start this morning. It was bitterly cold this morning; you could tell it was below zero.”

Around town, he said, there were multiple cars that didn’t start, and school buses, too, struggled – causing a two hour delay, said Sheridan.

In Boston, Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating had an influx of calls this morning, said plumber Harry Blazer, who was manning the phones today.

“It’s not too much to do with the cold, even on the coldest day of the year,” he said, attributing the problems to Murphy’s Law.

Most calls are about small problems unrelated to weather, like furnaces not working and old equipment giving out. There haven’t been any calls about frozen pipes yet, but Blazer expects the calls to come once pipes start to thaw and homeowners notice leaks.

At ABCD of Boston, whose fuel assistance program helps about 26,000 households get oil, officials said they were in emergency mode, making sure that people have enough oil.

Our job is to be on the ground and do what we can,” said chief executive John Drew. “I’m very worried, obviously. This kind of cold is deathly.”

The Arctic high pressure that has been causing the frosty temperatures will move offshore tonight and things will warm up — somewhat. The forecasters say today’s highs will be 5 to 15 degrees and overnight lows will range in the single numbers with a few inland locations dropping again to below zero.

By contrast, the mercury on Tuesday is expected to climb to a relatively Caribbean level — to the 20s inland and the 30s closer to the coast. Sunshine will give way to more clouds with occasional light rain or snow showers.

It will be a welcome relief. Back in Athol, Drozdowski was among residents who said it was the coldest they could ever remember. He’s been working as a postman in Athol for 21 years and said the coldest he recalled was 15 below.

“Right now there’s no wind. If you dress warm, you can handle it,” he said.

The next weather challenge to keep in mind: A coastal storm is raising the potential for strong winds, heavy snow or mixed precipitation or both late Wednesday into Thursday, the weather service warned.


Written by jdunccc

January 24, 2011 at 12:00 am

Posted in MetroDesk Blog, The Boston Globe

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A total eclipse, but will anyone see it?

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Published on December 20, 2010 in The Boston Globe MetroDesk Blog

A wonder of nature and a subtle reminder of man’s place in the universe, a total eclipse of the moon is expected in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. But residents of eastern Massachusetts may not get to see the celestial show.

The National Weather Service in Taunton says that due to clouds and flurries, the eclipse – the first in nearly three years — will probably not be visible in Boston and the surrounding areas. The best chance to catch a glimpse of the eclipse will be west of Worcester.However, officials at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics still held out hope that viewers in Greater Boston might see the eclipse.

“Right now it looks like there may be a window tonight. Of course, we live in Boston. We never know,” David Aguilar said, director of public affairs at the center.

The eclipse will begin around 1:30 a.m., and will last until about 5 a.m., as the earth’s shadow creeps across the moon and then recedes, Aguilar said.

He predicted that glimpses of the copper-colored moon, at least,should be visible between the clouds.

If the clouds do interfere with watching the eclipse in Massachusetts, you can always watch it online. NASA says it will post streaming video from Huntsville, Ala., at


Written by jdunccc

December 20, 2010 at 12:00 am

Posted in MetroDesk Blog, The Boston Globe

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