Snow causing roofs to collapse

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by By DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News and KING5.com staff

NWCN.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 1:44 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 25 at 4:17 PM

Video: Heavy snow causing roofs to collapse

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Piles of snow are causing roof damage throughout the region, creating dangerous situations.

At Meadowgate Stables in Stanwood, the roof of a 70-by-200-foot arena came crashing down.

"It was one fell swoop, one bang, one sound," said trainer Stephanie Blockley-Clarke. "I couldn't believe it."

The veteran horse trainer had been lunging horses inside the arena only hours before.

Because the roof came down at 5 a.m., no one was inside.

After that, several dozen people banded together to shovel snow off six barns.

In Arlington, several structures at the Sarvey Wildlife Center collapsed under the weight of rain soaked snow.

The most badly damaged were the center's eagle flights, which workers say may be a complete loss.

But they're just thankful none of the animals were hurt.

At the Sherman Valley Ranch in Olympia, co-owner Cathy Noyes said a portion of the roof of the riding arena collapsed under the weight of heavy snow.

She said no animals were injured, but the horses were removed from the barn area and put out in their paddocks as a precaution.

In Bothell Friday afternoon, a City of Bothell Fire and E.M.S. firefighter was injured while responding to a medical call at Green Acres Mobile Home Park.

Lt. Gary Wick sustained serious injuries to his face and neck when an awning collapsed on him.

Wick, a 20-year-veteran of Bothell Fire, was transported by paramedics to Harborview Medical Center. On Saturday he was in stable condition and was awaiting surgery.

The patient, who was still inside the residence during the collapse, was not injured.

In Tumwater, 65 senior citizens were evacuated from the Olympics West Retirement Inn late Friday afternoon after a doorway buckled due to snow piling up. Some residents have been allowed to return, but four units remain off-limits.

In Olympia Thursday, a roof collapsed at Capital High School.

Also in Olympia this week, firefighters had to use the Jaws of Life to rescue a man trapped beneath his own roof.

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Eighty-five-year-old Don Sheppard knew he was in trouble as he sat on his front porch's rocking chair Christmas Eve.

"It just came down, bang," he said. "Just like that. Such terrific force."

His wife called 911 because he was trapped. Buried in snow, his foot was stuck between the house and the caved-in roof.

"He was saying 'help me, help me help me,'" his wife said.

Don knows it was a close call.

"When the fireman got here, he said 'man I don't know how you ever survived this," Sheppard said.

More than a dozen of Don Sheppard's neighbors had similar problems with their flat roofs, which were not meant to support almost 2 feet of snow.

Apparently neither was the roof at Capital High School, where a section almost as big as a tennis court collapsed early Christmas morning, damaging water and gas lines.

Olympia building inspector Tom Hill spent the week looking at businesses and homes that might be susceptible to cave-ins.

He says anyone with a flat roof should try to lighten the snow load if it can be done safely. And with warmer rain in the forecast, they should clear their gutters and drains.

"If the drains are frozen the rain won't necessarily go down through the roof system," he said. "So it could bring additional loading on that roof."

The City of Olympia says if you're roof appears to be buckling, stay away from it and call the city inspector's office. They're also urging folks to check on older neighbors and see if they need help cleaning drains or clearing any snow away.

Be aware

Be aware of the dangers of overloaded roofs and watch for early warning signs of excessive snow and ice such as:

- Severe roof leaks, indicating torn roof membranes

- Ripples or bends in metal supports

- Loud popping noises emanating from the building structure

- Water ponds in areas where it never accumulated before

- Obvious deformities in the roof

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