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Preventing Roof Collapses

The heavy snow last week caused several roof collapses around the Kansas City area. And several more buildings were evacuated for fear of a collapse, including a Macy’s in Overland Park.  KCUR’s Dan Verbeck sat down with Overland Park Code Administrator, Tim Ryan, to find out more about addressing and preventing roof collapses.


On the roof damage at the Metcalf South Macy’s:

“They had some abnormalities out there whether it was because of drifting snows or whatever. They had some areas where they had three to four foot of snow up there. And obviously we had a heavy snow and because of the area of that weight, it was imposing more weight for a substantial period of time over that roof area, so it was deflecting the main structural members…it’s basically bending…and when you see something deflect that much, it’s cause for concern.”

On misconceptions about roof damage:

“When we talk about ‘failure steel,’ I think sometimes people misinterpret what that means. It doesn’t necessarily break like a stick, but because of the amount of bending and deflection, typically the ends where your vertical exterior walls meet your roof area, it tends to pull apart. And that, typically you’ll see collapses on the ends versus the middle of the roof or at the beam connections.”

On the threat of roof collapses on other buildings:

“What happens with a lot of these things depends on the configuration of the roof where your offsets, and where the snow is going to accumulate…And obviously our biggest concern is our flat roofs, where a lot of our homes in our area, quite frankly, have very steep slopes to them so the snow doesn’t accumulate on a sloped roof like it does on a flat roof... Our commercial buildings, we have a lot of flat roofs on our commercial buildings.”

On recommendations for single family homes:

“Don’t climb up on the roof yourself unless you really know what you’re doing…if you need to get the snow off the roof…you can use, even a snow shovel will help, but they do have things called snow rakes with the telescopic handles. And you basically would grab the snow and just pull it down off the roof, and slide it down off the slope of the roof. That’s the best recommended practice…the other thing you got to be worried about is how you scrape the snow off of there so you don’t damage the roof covering. Obviously, you want to pull the snow down, in the direction the roof is sloped. You don’t want to go across the shingles because then you grab them and tear them up, and now you’ve got a leaking problem.”

Sylvia Maria Gross is storytelling editor at KCUR 89.3. Reach her on Twitter @pubradiosly.
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