by CHRIS ROGERS
It’s not just barns. On Sunday, the roof above the pool at the Winona Holiday Inn Express & Suites collapsed due to heavy snow, and Winona Fire Chief Curt Bittle reported that a small section of roof at Badger Foundry’s factory caved in after last month’s blizzard.
Last month set a record for the most amount of snow in Minnesota in February. Scores of barns across the region suffered roof collapses after last month’s blizzard, and this month has not been much kinder. Fortunately, no one was hurt during the two roof collapses in Winona, according to Bittle. However, the heavy snow and ice has some worried that other buildings may be susceptible to crumpling under all that weight.
Bittle warned Winonans to try to remove snow off roofs ahead of Tuesday night’s forecasted storm. “The added weight with rain and slushy snow on roofs may cause some issues with not only commercial buildings but residential,” Bittle stated. “They really need to keep an eye on this,” Bittle advised property owners. “The house is going to tell you when it’s being overworked structurally. It’s going to creak and crack and that’s a warning sign.”
Elsewhere, experts advised Minnesota Public Radio listeners that the risk of falling while trying to clear snow off roofs may outweigh the risk of any collapse. A farmer died from a fall while clearing snow off a barn in Eau Claire County, Wis., this winter. “I hope people will be proactive in trying to reduce some of the snow that’s on these buildings right now, but hopefully they’ll do it safely,” FSA Executive Director for Trempealeau and Jackson counties Julie Dokkestul said.
Perry Fitch of Winona Heating and Ventilating’s roofing department has been sending crews to clear snow off many commercial properties in Winona over the last month, but he said his company’s rooftop snow removal work is wrapping up in anticipation of a major thaw. He said of snow loads, “If they’re not down by now, it’s pretty much too late.” There are no guarantees, but, Fitch stated, “Realistically, if you made it through this week you’re going to be OK … If you’ve made it till now, the next three days are going to give a lot of relief.”
The nonprofit research organization Institute for Business and Home Safety offers some guidelines and advice for when and how to remove snow off roofs at disastersafety.org/freezing-weather/prevent-roof-collapse-homes and disastersafety.org/ibhs/snow-load-risks-commercial.