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As snow piles up, concern grows about roof collapses

In the mid-Atlantic region, many roofs are straining under the weight of record snow. On Wednesday, part of a roof for a storage building owned by the Smithsonian Institution collapsed.

John Cochran shovels snow off the flat part of his roof at his home in the Capitol Hill East area of Washington, Tuesday.

Alex Brandon/AP

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On Wednesday in Alexandria, Va., D.J. Nordquist was looking out her second-floor window when she saw three men on the roof next door, trying to shovel off the snow in the howling blizzard.

“We did it yesterday before the snow hit,” Ms. Nordquist says. “The newspapers say all the snow on the roof is like having an elephant up there.”

Indeed, snow totals for the season are at record levels in places like Washington and Baltimore. And now, many residents are worrying about the cumulative weight of the snow.

It can be a serious matter. On Wednesday, for example, part of a roof for a storage building owned by the Smithsonian Institution collapsed.

People who market products to remove the snow from rooftops are quick to warn about ice dams, which can lead to water rolling down the inside of a structure. It can also lead to gutters ripping out – not something cheap to fix.

“The heavier the snow, the more compacting you get and the more damage you end up with,” says Todd Miller, who has a website that answers questions about roofing issues.

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