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Water-soaked snow adds to roof collapse toll

Officials log 15 new collapses, also cite danger from falling ice

An industrial building on Sprague Street in Hyde Park suffered a roof collapse Wednesday.
An industrial building on Sprague Street in Hyde Park suffered a roof collapse Wednesday.(David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)

At least 15 snow-laden roofs crumpled Thursday in Massachusetts, the latest among 231 buildings that have collapsed or suffered serious damage because of mounting ice and snow, officials said.

“It seems like every hour, I’m getting another report of a collapse,” state Public Safety Commissioner Tom Gatzunis said.

A roof collapse at a detached one-story garage at 22 Mullins Ave. in Duxbury pushed out the walls and destroyed the garage, said Deputy Fire Chief Chris West. It was discovered Thursday morning by the homeowner.

There were no vehicles inside, and no one was injured, West said.

A barn at 82 Farm St. in Dover was destroyed when its roof collapsed overnight, according to a Dover police officer, Harold Grabert. “It’s pretty much a loss,” he said.

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The building had been used as a horse-riding and dog day-care facility during the day. No animals were in the barn overnight, though, Grabert said. No one was injured.

Collapses were also reported in Ashland, Duxbury, Hamilton, Southbridge, and Whately, Gatzunis said.

On Wednesday, at least a dozen roofs collapsed, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said.

Gatzunis said he expects the reports to continue as temperatures begin to rise above freezing. Some snow is starting to melt, which redistributes weight on roofs and concentrates it in low areas, he said.

“Parts that remain as snow act like a sponge, absorbing anything that melts, and making the existing snow even denser,” Gatzunis said.

Light, fluffy snow adds 7 pounds of weight per cubic foot to a roof, while wet snow adds 21 pounds, and pure water adds 62 pounds, Gatzunis said. Roofs need to be cleared of snow to avoid more collapses, especially as the snow turns to liquid, he said.

“We’re really encouraging people to remove snow from their roofs themselves or hire contractors to do it,” Gatzunis said.

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Collapses are not the only danger presented by hulking loads of snow and ice on roofs.

A woman was injured Thursday in Burlington when a large piece of ice fell from a rooftop and through the windshield of her car, officials said.

The incident was reported at 9:17 a.m. Burlington firefighters found the woman inside her car with ice penetrating the windshield. The ice had also broken both side mirrors. The ice fell off the roof of her residence, inside the Villages at Maple Ridge complex, Burlington fire officials said in a statement.

The 49-year-old woman was taken to Lahey Hospital & Medical Center for treatment of injuries that were not life-threatening, officials said.

“We are very fortunate that the victim in this instance was not more seriously injured,” Burlington Fire Chief Steve Yetman said. “However, as temperatures warm up and rain mixes with the snow already packed onto rooftops, it creates very dangerous situations like this if roofs are not properly cleared.”

Wednesday morning, similar accidents happened in Cambridge and Beacon Hill, where a large icicle fell through the windshield of a vehicle.


Aneri Pattani can be reached at aneri.pattani@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @apattani95.