New Northeast weather worry: collapsing roofs
Al Brewer uses snow rake to clear snow off the roof of his home, which dates back to 1840, as rain falls Feb. 11, 2013, in Vernon, Conn. / AP
HARTFORD, Conn. Snow-weary Northeasterners still digging out driveways and clearing roads from a weekend storm were hit with potential danger coming from above as well -- roofs collapsing from the weight of snow and ice along with recent rainfall.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the number of reported roof collapses across his state had grown to at least 16 by early evening Monday, up from five, in the morning. He warned places with flat roofs, like schools, to get them cleared.
"Schools are important resources. Please get somebody up on the roof," Malloy said during an evening briefing in Hartford. "At the very least, make sure that the drains are clear and working. We don't want a tragedy to occur at one of our school buildings."
Police on Long Island evacuated one of the area's biggest malls on Monday because of major roof leaks. The Smith Haven Mall in Suffolk County was cleared by 4 p.m. Monday after significant leaks were detected in more than two dozen stores. Police worried the roof could collapse.
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Smithtown Building Department Director John Bongino said that in one of the stores it looked "almost as if there was an open ceiling and it was raining."
"It was determined when they got up on the roof that there was at least a seven foot snow drift," Suffolk County Fire Department spokesman Paul Llobell told CBS New York radio station WCBS. "When you the snow drift, seven feet of snow, and combine that with all this heavy rain we've had (Monday), that's like dropping a fire truck on top of this building."
Schools remained closed across much of New England and New York on Monday after the epic storm swept through on Friday and Saturday with 1 to 3 feet or more of snow that entombed cars and sealed up driveways. About 49,000 homes and businesses were still waiting for the electricity to come back on early Tuesday.
The storm was blamed for at least 18 deaths in the U.S. and Canada.
Most major highways were cleared by Monday, but the volume of snow was just too much to handle on many secondary roads. A mix of sleet and rain also created new headaches. A 10-mile stretch of Interstate 91 just north of Hartford to Massachusetts was closed briefly because of ice and accidents.
In New York, where hundreds of cars became stuck on the Long Island Expressway on Friday night and early Saturday morning, some motorists vented their anger at Gov. Andrew Cuomo for not acting more quickly to shut down major roads, as other governors did, and for not plowing more aggressively.
"There were cars scattered all over the place. They should have just told people in the morning, 'Don't bother going in because we're going to close the roads by 3 o'clock.' I think Boston and Connecticut had the right idea telling everybody to stay off the roads," said George Kiriakos, an investment consultant from Bohemia, N.Y.
On Monday morning, he said, conditions were still miserable: "It's just as slick as can be. You've got cars stuck all over like it's an obstacle course."
Cuomo has defended his handling of the crisis and said that more than one-third of all the state's snow-removal equipment had been sent to the area. He said he also wanted to allow people the chance to get home from work.
"People need to act responsibly in these situations," the governor said.
The number of homes and businesses without power was down from a peak at 650,000. More than 46,000 of those still waiting were in Massachusetts.
About 50 residents of Scituate, Mass., remained at a shelter set up at Situate High School Monday, as much of the town was still without power. That numbers is down from a peak of 150 on Saturday, said Jennifer Sullivan, the town's director of public health.
Richard and Ann Brown, married 65 years, spent the last three nights sleeping on side-by-side cots at the shelter. By Monday afternoon, they were missing the comforts of home.
"It's disrupting when you're older," said Ann Brown, 88. "You've got to be careful to keep your spirits up," she said.
Richard Brown, 89, said they were grateful to be warm and to be given meals at the shelter. But Brown, who has lived in Scituate for 35 years, said he was hoping the electricity will be restored to their home by Tuesday.
"We don't like this," he said. "I want to go home."
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