A heavy load of snow lead to the collapse of one of several large vinyl structures at the Westerner Park this week.

Snow causes roof collapse at Westerner

It’s a bad time to be a roof in Central Alberta.

It’s a bad time to be a roof in Central Alberta.

Record snowfalls claimed a few roofs in the region in mid-December, and before the year was out, a “tremendous snow load” accumulated over many days of snowy weather caused another roof to come down, this time in Red Deer.

Sometime during the night on Dec. 30, snow brought down about half of the canvas top covering Tent D at the south end of the Westerner Park grounds. Crews noticed the collapse the next morning.

“It was there when they went home and it wasn’t there when they got back,” said Westerner Park CEO John Harms.

The tent structure, which Harms estimated to be at least 20 metres long, is used for stabling horses during equine events on the grounds for much of the year, but is empty during the winter months. The area was unoccupied at the time of the structural failure.

“We anticipate that we’ll be able to get it repaired in time for the beginning of our horse show season in early May,” said Harms.

There is no estimate yet on the damage. The collapsed tent is insured for $700,000 and Harms said he believes insurance will cover the damage.

Since the collapse, crews have knocked down much of the snow accumulated on the roofs of other buildings to prevent a similar failure.

City staff have been up on the roofs at City Hall and the Civic Yards monitoring snow accumulation for a month already, something they would typically start doing only in February. Public works manager Greg Sikora said staff have mostly been clearing snow around heat exchangers, air intakes and drainage vents to ensure the buildings stay ventilated.

Workers have also been managing snow loads around catchment areas to ensure drainage can occur whenever the snow melts. The city has not removed any snow from the buildings’ roofs yet though.

The city’s recreation buildings are also inspected regularly. Most of the buildings have peaked roofs.

A third round of roof inspections will take place today on Red Deer Public Schools buildings. Facilities and maintenance personnel with the division have already done two complete checks of school roofs, and have not yet found it necessary to clear off snow.

While most schools have flat roofs, which can lead to large snow build ups, if the snowpack is mostly dry even a large amount of snow might not be heavy enough to cause roof issues.

Outside of the city in Red Deer County, barns often prove most susceptible to heavy snows. In December, two barns collapsed and in another case, county staff and volunteer firefighters had to be called in to shore up a barn roof that was sagging against the weight.

In one of the cases, over 20 cattle died from a roof collapse on a farm near Bentley.

“That’s going to be an issue as we go through the winter here,” said Ric Henderson, director of community and protective services with the county.

Home insurance typically covers roof damage for houses, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada. However, if a cottage roof collapses from the weight of snow, it is not covered by insurance.

mfish@bprda.wpengine.com

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