Winter nightmares aren't just limited to dangerous roads and extreme cold. With heavy snowfall comes the threat of building damages and collapses.
According to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), in the first 48 hours after the Groundhog Day snowstorm, there were more than 80 collapses and buildings with structural weaknesses reported to MEMA.
Snow-related building collapses are usually caused by heavy loads of snow on roofs, so this season has been unique because of the extreme weather. Recent rain and sleet made the situation even worse, since the rain could get soaked up by the snow and add even more weight to roofs.
A cubic foot of dry snow weighs about 6 to 8 pounds, while one cubic foot of packed snow could weigh up to 20 pounds. The same volume of ice can weigh three times this amount.
According to a 2008 report from Structure Magazine, causes of snow-related structural problems normally include roof step snow drift, parapet wall snow drift, gable roof snow drift, open air and freezer (uniform loads across the whole roof), sliding snow and ice dams.
Low-pitched and flat roofs are more vulnerable to snow accumulation; lower roofs are of larger risks as well.
How to calculate your roof snow load
How to spot problems with your building
How to remove snow from your roof
(Reference: Public Safety Advisory On Potential Roof Collapses by Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency)
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