Vacant building's roof collapses under weight of snow Structure in Columbia condemned after incident

January 16, 1996|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,SUN STAFF

Snow and ice caused the roof of a vacant Columbia building to cave in Saturday night, the second collapse of a county business in a week, Howard rescue officials said.

The LPP Retail Building in the 10700 block of Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia's Town Center was condemned by a Howard building inspector after its collapse, said Lt. Stephen Redmiles of the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue.

About 10 p.m. Saturday, police officers and firefighters responded to a fire alarm at the property owned by the Rouse Co. and discovered that more than 3 feet of snow had caused the top center of the slanted roof to cave in, setting off the sprinkler system, Lieutenant Redmiles said.

Rescuers searched the building to make sure no one was inside.

Rouse officials could not estimate how much snow had piled on top of the LPP Building, but they said that much of it had stayed frozen because the unoccupied structure had gone nearly two years without heating.

The building had had no tenants for nearly two years after a scuba shop and a large appliance rental business moved out, said Cathy Lickteig, a Rouse spokeswoman.

The brick building is attached to the Cellular One phone company. Cellular One workers said the vacant building appeared to be in good condition when they left work Friday.

The flat roof of the Cellular One section was still covered with snow yesterday. Ms. Lickteig said building inspectors had checked the roof but did not fear a similar collapse because interior heating had melted much of the snow on the roof.

Lieutenant Redmiles said rescuers don't get many calls for collapsed roofs in Columbia because most of the buildings there are new.

Thursday, rescuers responded to the 9100 block of Red Branch Road in Columbia's Long Reach village for a roof that had begun to sag.

Occupants had heard noises coming from the roof and called firefighters. The rescuers arrived, evacuated people from the partly collapsed building and condemned it, fire officials said.

County building inspectors said Howard County buildings are sturdy but are not designed for snowstorms as heavy as the recent ones.

"The area doesn't get this type of snow," said Bruce Forejt, a county building inspector. "Mother Nature dealt us a blow we're not used to."

Since 1966, county building codes have required that all roofs be able to withstand 5 feet of snow without collapsing.

But fire and rescue officials suggest that residents and business owners clear their rooftops after a 4-foot buildup, according to a memo within the Howard County Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits.

Fire officials suggest that anyone inside a building who hears unusual noises or squeaks, or sees cracks in ceilings or walls leave the building until it is inspected.

Firefighters in nearby Carroll County have been dealing with several roof collapses caused by the snow.

Yesterday, rescuers in Sykesville searched a collapsed clubhouse owned by the Maryland League of Horsemen.

The roof of the wooden structure, about half a mile off Henryton Road, probably was damaged in the middle of last week's storm, said Assistant Chief Libby Luebberman of the Sykesville Volunteer Fire Department.

She said rescuers in Carroll County had responded to reported roof collapses at a bowling alley, a chicken house and a sign store since Friday.

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