Soldotna residents urged to clear snowy roofs after 2 collapses

a snowy roof
The large amounts of snow and wind this December are creating uneven snow loads in Soldotna — which, in turn, create hazards for property owners. (Sabine Poux/KDLL)

For Alaskans who have spent the last several days shoveling, the two-plus feet of snow dumped on parts of the central Kenai Peninsula last week is a nuisance.

But when piled high on top of buildings, it can also be dangerous. Two roofs in Soldotna collapsed Friday under heavy snow loads — at the Spenard Builders Supply store and the Copper Center, on Kalifornsky Beach Road. Nobody was injured in either incident.

Todd Russell is building official for the city of Soldotna. He said this is not the year to put off snow removal.

“I’ve been up here for about 25 years,” he said. “And most of the people that I’ve talked to, they’re having a hard time remembering a snowfall like this in December, ever.”

Russell said the large amounts of snow and wind this December create uneven loads. And the snow that is loading is packed very heavy, so it weighs more than average.

“So we got the perfect storm,” he said.

He said he’s not worried about newer buildings, which are often built with trusses to withstand uneven loading. But for older homes, the snow can create issues.

“If you have more than a couple feet of snow on a 1960s or ’70s farm home, I suggest that you try to get it shoveled,” he said.

He said he plans to do the same at his home, since its backside is loaded with 4 feet of snow.

Buildings with flat roofs are also at risk of collapse. That was the case for both Friday incidents in Soldotna.

Chief Roy Browning with Central Emergency Services said his crews responded to the collapse at Spenard Builders Supply just after 6 a.m., along with ENSTAR and Homer Electric Association. No one was in the building at the time and contractors soon started removing snow at the collapse, toward the back of the store.

CES was called to Copper Center just before noon. Browning said people inside the IDEA Homeschool office evacuated when they noticed the false ceiling inside sagging, before it collapsed. And since the surrounding buildings — including the Soldotna DMV — were all built the same way, people inside those units evacuated, too.

Don Hendrickson, a building official in Kenai, said he’s not aware of any roof collapses in Kenai at this time.

Russell said it’s only going to become more important to remove snow as the weather warms, in January. Wet snow and rain might make existing issues worse.

“As soon as you add a warming event, now you might really be creating a problem,” Russell said.

He said it’s also important to think about where you’ll put the new snow, and to make sure you’re not shoveling snow into areas where it could flood your home come spring. He recommended shoveling roofs with harnesses, which he said you can find at Home Depot.

Russell also said to make sure there’s no deep snow covering vents, which could trap deadly carbon monoxide inside your home. He suggested keeping heating system and dryer vents clear of snow and ice.

There’s no additional snow in the forecast for the central Peninsula until later this week, with a chance of snow Wednesday and Thursday.

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