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Building collapses continue; more storms on horizon

Posted by Metro Desk  February 3, 2011 01:36 PM

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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 hope -- 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, said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Luckily, while dozens of people were in potentially dangerous situations, no one has been seriously hurt, Judge said.

Judge said the number of collapses were "mindboggling." So was lack of injuries, he said.

Already today, collapses have been reported in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood, Chelsea, and Worcester. Concerns rose that schools might experience roof collapses. In Georgetown, a partial collapse at a school forced officials to bus students to the high school. Classes were canceled at Hingham Middle School because of concerns about the safety of the roof. South Shore Charter School in Norwell was evacuated and classes were canceled after a suspicious crack was noticed in the wall. Officials also checked out a school in Chelsea, and a facility for the severely disabled in Westford.

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 ones 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.

On Friday, temperatures will reach into the low 30s with sunny skies. But that will change on Saturday when, the weather service said, the area may see a storm bringing a mixture of snow, freezing rain, and rain.

In Jamaica Plain, the 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, firefighters are investigating a building collapse at an auto garage on Vernon Street. Fire officials said the structure collapsed at 9-11 Vernon St. around 9 a.m.

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 Wednedsay 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.

Originally published on the blog MetroDesk.

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