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A s snow builds up, roof concerns mount

The snowiest winter in many years brings with it a unique set of challenges for residents as a season’s worth of accumulation remains on building roofs across the area, in some cases having dire results.

Although no injuries, loss of equipment or livestock occurred, a Middle Granville barn succumbed to what quickly became far too much snow for some roofs to bear by Sunday morning. Following a day when temperatures soared to 40 degrees, the barn collapsed about 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 6.

A wet, heavy snowfall that turned to rain and even included a rare winter thunderstorm on Feb. 5 made the snow load more than the county Route 23 barn of Dan Wilson and Susan Knapp could handle.

Firefighters from Penrhyn Engine and Hose and North Granville Hose Company responded briefly to the site to evaluate the scene across Route 23 from Hicks Orchard.

Wilson said the family was enjoying a quiet evening at home when the family heard a noise that sounded like more snow falling off of the roof, but then the dogs started barking. “We thought it was snow, but then Jonah looked outside and said, ‘The barn just fell over,’” Wilson said. The structure’s exact age was not known, but Wilson said he had seen a 1909 photo of his house and the barn is in the image.

The older two-story barn presented a challenge for cleaning off, so Wilson said it was the last of about 15 structures to get his attention, just a little too late. “It’s ironic because I just spent the better part of four days shoveling off roofs,” Wilson said gesturing toward the orchard complex.

Just days before many were taking a wait-and-see approach to snowy roofs as much of the snow that fell on Granville over the course of the winter had a light, dry quality and relatively low weight.

Farmer and Granville boys basketball Head Coach Duane Dodge said he was keeping a close eye on those barns that needed shoveling at Dodge Hill. The other eye was going to be kept on the weather. Dodge said the snow wasn’t too bad as of Friday evening, but he was waiting to see what the storm produced Saturday night.

On Beecher Road Don DeKalb said he had worked for most of the day Friday clearing his roof. His chief concern was not the snow load presented by the relatively dry and fluffy snow, about two feet of it, he said, already perched on top of his single story ranch-style home, but how that weight could multiply with added moisture from a rainstorm.

Granville School District Buildings and Grounds Superintendent Brad Wood said the only real concern he has had with roofs was ice buildup and that has been dealt with.

“We had to do some ice removal,” Wood said.

Typically slate roofs shed their snow load during warmer days and that odd warm day had just not happened, he said. 

With the winter weather remaining cold versus having any breaks for melting, Wood said much of the snow that had fallen on the school remained in place until his workers knocked it loose while working on the ice dams.

Ice dams created by a combination of heat loss and compacted snow can cause water to begin backing up under whatever sort of covering is on a roof. Thus, the need to deal with the ice dams on the school’s slate roof sections.

Unlike the typical home, however, Wood said the flat roofs of the school district have a single membrane covering much different from metal sheeting, slate or shingles.

“There’s no way for water to get up under that,” he said of the single membrane.

Curious about such things, Wood said he had been in contact with the school’s engineers regarding snow weight limits.

The weight of the snow is also a long way from being a concern, he found.

The roof currently has about 16 inches of fairly light, dry snow resting on it, but is rated for considerably more, a long way from requiring any kind of cleaning, he said.

Wood declined to offer advice for residential roofs, citing too many variations in construction and materials making generalizations on dealing with snow impractical; instead he recommended those with questions consult an expert.

“There are a lot of people out there who are skilled and insured for such things,” he said.

Higher snow totals to the south and east of Granville apparently caused the partial collapse of two barns, one in Greenwich Saturday and one in that Schuylerville area killing about two dozen animals and injuring others.

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