School roofs holding snow weight … so far

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PARIS — Oxford Hills School District officials say they are monitoring the amount of snow on the district’s school buildings.

“If another big storm came we’d be worried,” SAD 17 Facilities Manager Nelson Baillargeon told the Advertiser Democrat days after a record-breaking storm dumped more than two feet on the Oxford Hills and its schools, including the largely flat roof of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.

So far, only a small leak along the roof seam above a second floor classroom at the high school has been discovered, he said. Last week roofers repaired the area.

“It follows the girders and comes out where it wants to,” he said of the leak.

Although Baillargeon wasn’t able to immediately access the roofs after the Dec. 29-30, 2016 storm,  he measured 22 inches on the roofs following some melting. Six days after the storm passed there was still 18 inches of snow on the high school roof.

Anything above 3 feet is normally the time that the shovels will come out and snow will be hoisted off the school roofs, he said.

“We’re monitoring snow on the roofs,” he said.

Prior to the storm employees made sure the roof drains were open.

“On the slanted roofs it (snow) usually comes down enough. It’s the flat roofs we really look at. If we get 3 feet [of snow] we get input from roof contractors or if there was a lot of wet, heavy snow.”

Baillargeon said all the school buildings except Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris were built after strict building guidelines were put in place regarding snow load requirements.

At Agnes Gray, the roof above the gymnasium was strengthened in recent years to ensure it could hold any heavy snow load, he said.

Heavy snows has caused concern about the integrity of the SAD 17 school roofs in the past.

In March 2008, school officials called in a structural engineer to examine the school roofs because of heavy snow that winter. Students in the old Perkins Building, a wing in Oxford Elementary School, were removed from classes when some concern was expressed about the amount of snow on that portion of the roof.

Although there was no immediate danger to students or staff, then-Superintendent Mark Eastman said they decided to “play it safe” and temporarily evacuate the students and staff until the snow could be removed.

And 2008 was a particularly heavy snow winter for this area. SAD 17 had at least 11 days of school canceled that year.

Freezing temperatures, such as those experienced in the Oxford Hills earlier this week, can also spell trouble for the school buildings.

The snow load was so heavy in the Oxford Hills and beyond in 2008 that wooden support beams in the Sacopee Valley High School gymnasium in Hiram began to splinter. Oxford  Comprehensive High School has a steel girder roof rather than wood trusses.

Any problematic roofs in the SAD 17 district have been repaired or replaced this past year after voters in the eight district towns approved a $1.25 million bond in June 2016 to replace or repair school roofs, replace bleachers, improve parking spaces, rebuild a basketball court and resurface tennis courts.

The bond included $516,250 to replace or repair roofs on Guy E. Rowe Elementary School in Norway, Harrison and Oxford elementary schools, Oxford Hills Middle School in Paris, Waterford Elementary School, Legion Memorial School in West Paris, Oxford Annex and Rowe Annex in Norway.

It’s the last of all the roof work in the district to be completed, Baillargeon said.

There is no new roof work planned for the near future, he said.

As for the rest of the winter, Baillargeon is cautious.

“Little storms at a time would be fine,” he said.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net

SIDEBAR

MEMA Recommendations

STATE — Structural engineers say most roofs in Maine can withstand as much as 3 feet of snow before problems arise. That can change if snow is particularly heavy or if significant rain falls on top of snowpack.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency uses guidelines from the Insurance Institute on Business and Home Safety when recommending how much weight is too much on a roof.

According to MEMA officials, IBHS estimates the typical roof can handle 20 pounds per square foot of additional weight. An older home or older roof, especially with previous problems, might have problems with  less than 20 pounds.

  • Fresh snow: 10 to 12 inches of new snow is equal to 1 inch of water, or about 5 pounds per square foot of roof space, so you could have up to 4 feet of new snow before the typical roof will become stressed.
  • Packed snow: 3 to 5 inches of old snow is equal to 1 inch of water, or about 5 pounds per square foot of roof space, so anything more than 2 feet of old snow could be too much for your roof to handle.
  • Ice: 1 inch of ice equals 1 foot of fresh snow or 5 pounds per square foot.

As an example, 2 feet of old snow and 2 feet of new snow could weigh as much as 60 pounds per square foot of roof space, which is beyond the typical snow load capacity of most roofs.